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Developer Jerry Wolkoff seeks discount on Heartland sewer fees

Developer Jerry Wolkoff at his office in Edgewood

Developer Jerry Wolkoff at his office in Edgewood on Tuesday, June 14, 2017. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Developer Jerry Wolkoff has formally asked Suffolk County for a 50 percent discount on sewer connection fees that would save him $12 million on the 9,000 unit Heartland Town Square project in Brentwood.

However, some lawmakers said it would unfairly saddle taxpayers who live in the Southwest Sewer District with extra costs.

The application, filed March 16, triggers a 60-day period for the county departments of Health, Economic Development and Planning to issue advisory opinions on Heartland’s eligibility for the discount, which has never been sought before.

County lawmakers have 120 days to decide whether to allow the fee discount, which would cut sewer connection fees from $15 per gallon to $7.50 for the project’s first 1.6 million gallons of daily sewage flow — cutting the $24 million bill in half.

Health officials have estimated Heartland ultimately will need 2.5 million gallons of daily capacity at the Bergen Point Waste Treatment Plant in West Babylon, which has the capacity to process 40 million gallons a day.

Wolkoff said he does not expect the project to need the extra 900,000 gallon capacity because he will use improved technologies such as low-flow toilets and washing machines.

Wolkoff also said he would forego discounts on future connection fees for the megaproject that is expected to take 30 years to complete.

Wolkoff is seeking reduced fees under 2003 county legislation, sponsored by former Suffolk Legis. David Bishop, a Wolkoff lobbyist.

The law says developers, “shall receive a 50 percent discount” for mixed use projects larger than 10 acres that provide residential sales and rentals and include 15 percent affordable units as well as commercial and civic space.

Wolkoff says Heartland meets the criteria.

“100 percent, I should get it,” he said.

Legislative Counsel George Nolan said the final decision lies with lawmakers. “If the legislature has to pass on it, lawmakers always have the discretion to approve the application or not,” Nolan said.

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague) said passage of the discount may be “challenging.” He said some lawmakers are concerned about costs and unions are lobbying for a project labor agreement to require use of union labor and apprentice programs.

Gregory last year fought off an effort to kill the discount initiative. He said the project will help the economy and increase the number of rental and affordable housing units, Wolkoff will have to, “make his case.”

“I think there’s going to be a battle,” said Legis. Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst). “It’s bad enough people in the Southwest Sewer district are taking everyone’s sewage. But they should not be the ones paying for it.”

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