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Babylon Town creates policy for transferring development rights

The credit program compensates landowners in the core

The credit program compensates landowners in the core of the Long Island pine barrens who cannot develop their properties. Credit: Randee Daddona

The Town of Babylon has created a new policy to regulate the use of Pine Barrens Credits for developers seeking to expand in areas in the town without sewers.

In March, officials enacted a moratorium on using the credits, which transfers development rights from the preserved land in the pine barrens in eastern Suffolk County to other areas of the county.

Suffolk County Department of Health Services allots businesses a certain amount of wastewater flow based on the lot size, building size and the type of use. If a building wants to expand and falls short of requirements, a credit can be purchased for around $40,000 from the state-run Pine Barrens Credit Program, which compensates the landowners there who cannot develop their property.

A single credit allows for 300 gallons of wastewater flow per day, about equivalent to a single-family home, according to Rich Groh, chief environmental analyst for the town.

The town ban ends Dec. 31, and the new policy, passed by the town board on Dec. 19, places some restrictions on redeeming the credits, including limiting each hamlet to 10 credits for the life of the policy, Groh said.

The town will re-evaluate the policy in five years, he said.

The new policy also requires businesses using the credits to connect to sewers should they become available later.

Outside most of the town that’s connected to sewers, houses and businesses use on-site sanitary systems, like cesspools, or septic tanks and leaching pools. A few developments have their own sewer treatment plants.

Groh said the town received two applications to use Pine Barrens Credits in the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018, and while they were approved, it triggered a moratorium and a review of the credits program and the ensuing regulation policy.

“We didn’t want to just hand these credits out, we wanted a rationale,” he said, adding on average, credits were being used about once a year before that. “We didn’t want a proliferation of this.”

Groh said the new policy balances protecting groundwater in the town and supporting economic development.

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