Somers, concerned about keeping the revitalization of its downtown on track, has paved at least part of the way for one business seeking its sign-off on compliance with local building codes and laws.
The Town Board voted last week to authorize Supervisor Rick Morrissey to execute an amendment to its Community Benefits Agreement with DeCicco & Sons and with Boniello Land and Realty, the developers behind the Somers Crossing townhouse project.
Such agreements require developers to provide specific “amenities”—in this case, sidewalks—or “mitigations” (reducing the impact of projects) to the community or surrounding neighborhood.
Part of that project is a long-awaited boutique supermarket, one of many DeCicco & Sons outlets in the region.
DeCicco’s 20,000-square-foot building on Route 202 is done, and by all accounts looks “awesome” inside, but its doors will stay shut until it gets a certificate of occupancy from the town. And that depends on whether it can utilize the Heritage Hills wastewater treatment plant across the way.
The hold-up? Approvals from the state Department of Environmental Conservation regarding the plant’s capacity and “flow.” The county Department of Health’s thumbs-up is also necessary, but apparently not as big a hurdle.
It’s a long story with many twists and turns, including multi-million dollar plant upgrades, reported violations of state pollutant discharge regulations, and multiple lawsuits, but the bottom line is nothing’s happening until the plant improvements are made, tests are completed, and all the paperwork is done.
(The supermarket was tentatively scheduled to open in January. But CEO John DeCicco Jr., citing circumstances beyond the chain’s control, announced mid-month that the launch was being pushed back to “perhaps March.”
Meanwhile, its director of operations. Michael Puma, said the reasons behind the delay were “complex” and related to water and sewer needs.
“Until the water infrastructure for the area satisfies all relevant state and county agencies, we are in a holding pattern,” Puma said in a January posting on DeCicco’s Facebook page.)
Community Benefit Agreements are contracts that require developers to provide specific amenities – in this case, sidewalks – or mitigations (reducing the impact of projects) to the entire community or surrounding neighborhood.
The town has no control over what the state or county folks do, but it wants, said Supervisor Rick Morrissey, to “cut as much red tape as possible” so that it doesn’t hinder DeCicco’s opening – and sorely needed local economic development – in the meantime.
The Town Board voted to show the chain some love on Thursday, Feb. 14, aka Valentine’s Day, by changing the agreement to allow DeCicco & Sons to seek a CO before all the promised sidewalks are literally cast in concrete.
No worries. It did require that performance bonds be posted guaranteeing that work.
Townfolk have been eagerly awaiting both the opening of the supermarket and what they say is a much-needed “pedestrian network,” which would link up the center of town, Bailey’s Park, and property belonging to the Somers school district.
There are some easement and aesthetic issues still up in the air, but none that seem insurmountable, town officials say.
Sidewalks along Routes 202 and 100 would allow students and staff at the middle and intermediate schools’ campus, denizens of Heritage Hills, and people who work at the Town House and downtown businesses or offices, a safe way to get a bit of fresh air, stretch their legs, or stroll over to their favorite eateries for a nosh.
Those walkways that are not part of the Somers Crossings/DeCicco’s deal could someday be funded through grants, said town engineer Joe Barbagallo.
At the Town Board’s recent work session, Town Attorney Roland A. Baroni Jr. brought up the subject of town sewering and the Somers Towne Centre, which has its own wells and septic system.
Urstadt Biddle Properties, a real estate investment trust based in Greenwich, Conn., has signed sewer reserve capacity and user agreements with Heritage Hills. Sewering would obviously help businesses that use a lot of water, such as restaurants.
The company, headed by Willing Biddle, and his daughter, Ellie, owns the property on which the shopping center was built, the Heritage 202 Center across the street, and Somers Commons on Route 6.
Barbagallo strongly suggested to the Town Board that any authorization to include the shopping center in the sewer district be contingent upon the Heritage Hills plant upgrades getting all the necessary approvals beforehand.
(He said he had “no objections” to the inclusion itself.)
“I mean, we’re in the situation right now where DeCicco’s is ready, but the plant’s not ready, right?” Barbagallo explained.