Westhampton Beach’s Main Street business district and two condominium complexes will be able to connect to Suffolk County’s wastewater treatment plant at Gabreski Airport under a bill signed Sunday by County Executive Steve Bellone.
The connection will allow the village to save $7.4 million by not having to build a separate treatment plant in the village, officials said. It will also reduce the amount of nitrogen currently entering waterways from septic tanks and cesspools, and allow additional economic development in the downtown area.
“This is the way it’s supposed to happen when you work together across municipal lines,” Bellone said at a news conference Sunday.
County and local officials said sewers, estimated to cost $16.75 million, will revitalize the downtown and eliminate an estimated 5,000 pounds of nitrogen from entering waterways, according to a village-commissioned study. Westhampton Beach Mayor Maria Moore said the sewers would allow for new restaurants, a “small hotel” and additional apartments over storefronts. County sanitary code currently restricts development in the area because of a lack of sewers.
Bill-sponsor Legis. Bridget Fleming (D-Noyack) said the legislation, which allows an agreement between the county and village, will encourage job growth in the downtown to retain young people, as well as the environmental benefits. Allowing the village to connect to the county system is more efficient, she said, crediting the work of county and village engineers.
“Rather than reinvent the mousetrap, we have found a way with those engineers to capitalize on the project that’s already in place,” Fleming said.
Moore called the step “vitally important” for the village and health of the bays.
Moore said the village would be applying for grants to offset some of those costs. Bellone also said the county would apply for money under the state’s Shared Services Initiative, a program announced by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo last year to encourage local governments to work together. Some money from Southampton Town’s Community Preservation Fund could also be used for the sewer project.
Construction is estimated to start by 2021, according to county officials, but Moore said she believed it could be sooner. A final design report is expected to be done for the village in coming months.
The sewer plant at Gabreski will have to be expanded to cover the 60,000 gallons per day being requested by the village, according to the county resolution, which unanimously passed the legislature on March 6.
The village will pay $1.8 million in connection fees to offset some of the cost for the plant, which also serves the Air National Guard base and the companies at the Hampton Business District, and $80,000 a year annually.
Simon Jorna, owner of Beach Bakery Grand Cafe for 30 years, praised the concept of sewers, which has been talked about for decades. “It’s a start,” he said. But he questioned where the line will go down Main Street, how parking requirements will be handled with additional businesses and what the costs will be for residents and businesses.
Philip Grossman, a real estate broker with Brown Harris Stevens Westhampton and vice president of the Westhampton Beach Chamber of Commerce, said the project would be a boon for the economy and environment.
“It’s a win-win,” he said.
The connection is subject to approval by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.