Why does the Town of East Hampton continue to push forward with plans to build a $75 million Sewage Treatment Plant that would require 14 acres of county parkland when Downtown Montauk would provide very little in environmental benefits?

The reasons for the Town’s persistence might not be the ones the Town tells you. Here’s a hint. In its July 2022 Report to the East Hampton Town Board – a report which to this day has never been released to the public – H2M wrote the following as to the Purpose of Forming the Sewer District:

Business development and revitalization also hinge upon functioning sanitary systems. Every building, whether residential or commercial, designed for any specific use, has a certain amount of wastewater flow that its sanitary system is engineered to handle. In Suffolk County, the areas where failing on-site sanitary systems exist as the predominant method of wastewater disposal are losing value as they cannot be used to their fullest extent. This is seen in the Downtown Montauk Area where many buildings cannot accommodate mixed-use, cannot have a wet license, and are not able to increase their maximum occupancy ratings.

To minimize the discharge of contaminants to the environment, Suffolk County Department of Health Services (SCDHS) enacted Article 4, Article 6, Article 7, and Article 12 of the Suffolk County Sanitary Code to form the rules and regulations on which to protect groundwater and public health in Suffolk County. Article 6 of Suffolk County Sanitary Code was enacted in 1980 to limit development density based on location relative to water resources. Any development initiated after 1980 that would exceed the density limitations specified in Article 6 would be required to install onsite sanitary wastewater treatment system(s) or connect to a centralized treatment system to ensure compliance with local regulatory requirements. It is for these reasons that the development of centralized sanitary infrastructure would be beneficial to the social, economic, and environmental sectors of the Downtown Montauk Area.

Centralized sanitary wastewater collection, conveyance and treatment infrastructure will provide the property owners within the Downtown Montauk Area with the opportunity to expand their existing businesses in compliance with local zoning ordinance, as well as improve public perception associated with the reduction of nuisance odor emissions and potential back-ups that require pump-out activities of existing onsite sanitary wastewater disposal systems. Improvements to the Downtown Montauk Area will provide additional employment opportunities and may result in increased property valuations. The increase in property valuation within the Downtown Montauk Area and surrounding properties will provide additional property tax revenues to the Town while increased business activity will provide additional sales tax and income tax revenue, thus increasing the overall valuation of Montauk hamlet and to the overall Town.

In other words, the Town wants a sewer district in Downtown Montauk so it can get around the constraints imposed by the Suffolk County Sanitary Code, and so that downtown businesses, including restaurants and nightclubs, can increase the numbers of patrons they serve. It is not inherently wrong for the Town of East Hampton to promote economic growth and development in Montauk. But it is dishonest to say that this is being done in the guise of “clean water” and environmental protection. The Town wants Suffolk County to sacrifice 14 acres of forested parkland in the middle of Hither Woods so that Downtown Montauk businesses can expand. Let’s just call a spade a spade.

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