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Septic Costs Balloon at Montauk Shores

Thu, 06/27/2024 - 11:24

Mobile-home residents will fork over more money as permit delays persist

The waterfront Montauk Shores mobile home community continues to navigate the East Hampton Town permitting process in its effort to build a new wastewater treatment site.
Christine Sampson

What was originally estimated to be a $2.4-million wastewater treatment project at the Montauk Shores Condominiums has swelled to $5.4 million, leading the community’s management to borrow money to make up the difference as it continues to navigate the East Hampton Town permitting process.

More than 100 residents of the waterfront mobile-home community voted in favor of borrowing up to $2.5 million; the board of directors needed at least 100 votes to proceed.

The loan, according to a letter summarizing the May 25 meeting of the homeowners association there, is to be paid back by the residents in three ways: the contribution of $16,000 in one payment; four payments of $4,000, or a $188-per-month increase in community maintenance fees. Each owner had already contributed $10,000, and East Hampton Town has committed $200,000 toward the project.

Montauk Shores says it had $3.7 million on in hand, but has so far spent about a quarter-million dollars on soft costs such as design, engineering, inspections, and town and county fees.

Jim Graham, the Montauk Shores board president, attributed the swollen construction costs to two factors: the labor and commuting considerations associated with contractors’ bids, and the lengthy permit approval process, first with Suffolk County and now with the East Hampton Town Planning Board.

A New Jersey contractor has been chosen to build the sewage treatment site, which would have the capacity to treat 47,000 gallons of waste per day. East Hampton Town officials have said Montauk Shores is currently operating at 42,722 gallons per day, which is 434 percent of its capacity of “sanitary density permitted based upon parcel area.”

For a project that dates back to 2018, Suffolk’s Department of Health Services awarded a permit in December; the project has been before the

town planning board a couple of times so far, most recently on June 5.

“It seems like every turn, every time we go to a board or committee, it’s two more months, two more months, and I think the people here are getting ready to pull the plug,” Mr. Graham said by phone on Tuesday. The town, he said, “hits us at every corner” with something new.

The newest “something,” he said, is the East Hampton Town Planning Department’s request that Montauk Shores create a plan to mitigate stormwater runoff, which Mr. Graham described as having “nothing to do with the septic system.”

“It’s getting to the point where people are going to start questioning it,” he said. “Maybe this isn’t such a great thing. We thought was going to help our community and the surrounding areas. They keep telling us it’s unique and state-of-the-art . . . but it doesn’t seem like they want it to get done.”

As far as the town Planning Department is concerned, about a dozen outstanding issues remain. As detailed before the planning board on June 5, the lingering questions include clarifications on lighting, landscaping, and exterior appearance of the facility; sound and odor controlling infrastructure; certification that existing infrastructure is still in good condition; consensus on the type of fence to be used, and big-ticket items like the environmental assessment form required for the town permit to be approved.

Mr. Graham asserts that the process is “very redundant,” but in documents filed with the planning board, the town points out that the various agencies’ reviews were “uncoordinated” and procedure still needs to be followed in East Hampton.

“The fact that other agencies have complied with [the State Environmental Quality Review Act] does not relieve the planning board from its obligations under this state law,” town planners wrote.

Also on June 5, the planning board learned that while previous covenants prohibit Montauk Shores from allowing additional units beyond the 199 now allowed, about 70 of them could theoretically be replaced with larger ones without the need for additional site-plan review. For instance, an aging 605-square-foot mobile home could be replaced with a new one at 1,200 square feet, because New York State building code outlines limits for unit size: 0-to-600 square feet, 601-to-1,200 square feet, and greater than 1,200 square feet. Mr. Graham later clarified that the community doesn't allow units of 1,200 square feet; the cap is 920 square feet if the owner also has a shed, or 1,000 square feet without a shed.

Montauk Shores has also submitted updated paperwork that town planners said on June 5 they had not yet had the chance to review. The next planning board date for the project has not yet been set.

This story has been updated since it was first published to clarify allowable unit sizes.


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