Thursday, 15 February 2018 17:22

Ballston Sewer Proposal Seen as Boost to Route 50 Corridor

BALLSTON – With construction pending on the $10 million installation of sewage infrastructure on both sides of Ballston Lake, town leaders are now proposing a similar project in the hamlet of Burnt Hills that is valued at almost $16 million.

Multiple development projects are already underway in the town, including the construction of mixed-used commercial and housing units along Route 50 south of Ballston Spa; and near Mourningkill Drive and Charlton Road.

Town officials view the proposed sewer projects as related to that progress, especially since they are considering significant zoning changes for the Route 50 corridor as well.

Ballston’s Senior Planner Sophia Marruso said that some developers are waiting to see what the “final scope” will be from that legislative process.            

On Tuesday, during the first of several related public forums, Ballston Councilman Bill Goslin explained that the installation of a second large system of septic pipes would result in “a reasonable amount of development” in Burnt Hills.

Later that evening, the Ballston Town Board voted 3-2 in favor of creating the Route 50 Southern Sewer District subject to a public referendum on Wednesday, April 18.

Three other public forums are scheduled in town hall at 323 Charlton Road prior that date. They will be held on Thursday, March 1 at 6 p.m.; Wednesday, March 14 at 10 a.m.; and Tuesday, March 20 at 6 p.m.

Previously, town officials had approved the creation of the Ballston Lake Sewer District. Goslin said he expects construction to start next year on that $10 million project. 

Councilman John Antoski, who voted against the new proposal along with Councilman Chuck Curtiss, said he was motivated by the fact that a “higher number” of town residents supported the lake sewer project.  

Both proposed septic systems would connect to existing Saratoga County pipes east of Ballston Lake.

The county maintains 350 miles of pipes and about 100 pump stations—often aided by gravity—for transporting 13 million gallons of wastewater daily to a treatment plant in Mechanicville, according to Sewer District Executive Director Dan Rourke. 

Kim Kotkoskie, owner of Capital Region Environmental Engineering and Compliance PLLC, joined Goslin and Ballston Supervisor Tim Szczepaniak at the Feb. 13 forum to answer questions about the Burnt Hills proposal from local residents.

As the forum started, a man who did not identify himself insisted on interrupting Kotkoskie to claim that the approval process is being conducted "in the dark."*

Still, she emphasized the importance of the sewer project due to elevated levels of harmful bacteria that are being detected in surrounding areas, saying: “People don’t understand what’s happening underground in this part of town.” 

According to Kotkoskie, only businesses and residents in the Route 50 Southern Sewer District would be required to pay the charges necessary for connecting to the system.

Dozens of homes and businesses around Burnt Hills would be able to connect to pipes installed alongside Route 50, Lakehill, Midline and Sherwin roads, Larkin Drive and Fireman’s Lane, according to a project map. A new pump station would be built on Main Street south of the lake.   

Kotkoskie said the total cost of installing the new sewer district would be $15.8 million, though up to $2.5 million in New York State grants may be available to help reduce that amount—if the town applies for them within a certain time frame.    

Kotkoskie said the charges to property owners in Burnt Hills include one-time connection fees in the range of $3,500 to $10,000, depending on actual distances from the new sewer-district pipes and the needs for grinder pumps.   

She added that the “worst case” scenario (without any supporting state grants) would equate to a $926 fee paid by property owners annually for 30 years.

Goslin explained that the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake School District would be required to pay a fee of $112,000, which would increase annual property tax bills by $13.

“I’ve heard a number of people say that’s too costly for them,” Antoski said, after voting this week against the Route 50 sewer district measure.

Yet Goslin, at least, sees it as a prime opportunity for the town of Ballston.

At the public forum, Goslin cited federal studies that were done 20 years ago to indicate that every dollar municipal governments spend on infrastructure projects—such as the one proposed in Burnt Hills—equals $14 of “tax base back.”  

The proposed zoning changes in Ballston, he added, “restrict development” to Route 50 and prohibit the construction of structures that are more than two stories tall. He added that town officials are quite discerning about the types of businesses they approve.  

“At one time, we were described as the fastest-growing town in New York state,” Goslin said. “That’s not a designation that we like when our Comprehensive Plan says ‘rural character.’”

He said the Saratoga County Economic Development Corporation provided an analysis finding that fewer than 50 of more than 300 acres along Route 50 were developable, due to wetlands issues.

In conclusion, Goslin said: “The introduction of sewer will promote economic development because respected businesses will not have to invest extra funds or extra space for septic systems. The town has already placed limitations on development, and we’ll continue to develop the standards for the remaining Route 50 parcels to provide the desired community services.” 

*Due to an editing error, this sentence was omitted from printed versions of Saratoga TODAY. 

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