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Calverton homeowners sue Suffolk over sewage system demands

Daniel Hotchkin, president of the Calverton Hills Homeowners

Daniel Hotchkin, president of the Calverton Hills Homeowners Association, seen here on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017. The group has filed a federal lawsuit against Suffolk County over its sewage system. Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

Homeowners at a Calverton town house complex have filed a federal lawsuit against Suffolk County in a dispute over a sewage treatment system that serves the development’s homes.

Leaders of the Calverton Hills Homeowners Association say the county is requiring residents to install a new wastewater plant that would cost about $7 million — far more than many residents can afford.

Landlords said about half of the complex’s approximately 1,000 residents are on some form of public assistance, and some units are in foreclosure.

“It’s going to be a financial hardship for a lot of families that have an income less than the median income,” said Michelle Janlewicz, who owns and rents out three units. “Most people already owe more than the property is worth.”

According to court papers, county health officials in 2005 said Calverton Hills’ on-site sewage system failed to meet discharge standards. The county later required the homeowners association to replace the system, which was installed when the development was built in 1973.

Janlewicz’s company, Neuer Inc. of Riverhead, and the homeowners association sued the county in June in U.S. District Court in Central Islip.

The plaintiffs are asking the federal court to order the county to repair or replace the sewage system. They say the county took ownership of Calverton Hills after its original owner, Nugent Building Corp., failed to pay taxes and went out of business in 1980.

County spokesman Abdul Sada, in a statement, said: “Suffolk County generally does not comment on pending litigation, however, we have moved to dismiss this claim because we do not think it is a viable claim against the county.”

Homeowners association president Daniel Hotchkin, who owns and rents out five Calverton Hills homes, said the group had received an estimate 10 years ago that a new sewage system would cost $2 million. He said the county later added requirements such as stainless steel tanks that more than tripled the estimate.

“We looked into it and we can’t even get financing on it because we don’t even own the property,” Hotchkin said.

He said the association has raised $500,000 to $600,000 for a new system by charging residents an additional $30 a month. Hotchkin said the county has threatened to close the complex if the system is not replaced.

“Where are all these people going to go?” he said. “They’re going to throw them out on the street? They don’t care.”

Amanda Giordano, 47, who lives at Calverton Hills with her husband and son, said she does not know where they would go if they were forced to leave.

“Not only would I not be able to afford it, there’s not a chance that I could figure out a way to afford it,” she said. “I don’t know what would happen to us. I really don’t. It’s a frightening aspect. It’s a really, truly frightening thing to look at.”

Points of contention

Calverton Hills townhouse owners say:

  • Suffolk County is requiring a $7 million sewage treatment plant that residents cannot afford.
  • The county owns the complex and therefore should pay for a new plant.

Suffolk County officials say:

  • The current wastewater treatment plant violated discharge standards in 2005 and must be replaced.
  • The lawsuit should be dismissed because it is not a “viable claim against the county.”

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