Developers seeking partial-public solution for infrastructure

At its May meeting, the New Scotland Town Board heard about a proposed cluster subdivision off of Krumkill Road. 

NEW SCOTLAND — The lack of public infrastructure in New Scotland has helped maintain a rural charm many residents value, a characteristic long lost in the neighboring suburban towns of Guilderland and Bethlehem.

But builders who choose New Scotland have adapted their methods for supplying water and sewer service to their developments.

At May’s town board meeting, the board heard from James Easton, representing Prime Companies of Cohoes, the developer of a proposed cluster subdivision off of Krumkill Road, in the northeast corner of town.

New Scotland’s zoning code requires the town board to sign off on the cluster design as an alternative to conventional zoning, which is why Easton was at the May 8 meeting; a conventionally-zoned development could be approved by the town’s planning board.

The proposed project sits on 87.5 acres of land spread over two towns: 28.6 acres in New Scotland and 58.9 acres in Guilderland.

Easton said that the original plan also included a 22-lot subdivision on the Guilderland side of the parcel, which would have supplied water and sewer to the New Scotland subdivision.

However, Easton said, the number of homes Guilderland would allow to be built coupled with the amount of infrastructure the town required to be installed, made the project economically unfeasible.

So, now, with public water being supplied by Bethlehem and a proposal for private sewer, Prime Companies is looking to build on just the New Scotland side of the parcel.

 First brought before the planning board in November 2018 as a 22-lot conventional subdivision, the planning board, citing development recommendations made by the town’s recently-adopted comprehensive land-use plan, asked that Prime Companies consider a cluster development, which, according to Charles Voss, the planning board’s chairman, made “the development fit the existing conditions of the land … .” Clustering gave the developer two additional lots to build on.

To preserve open space, clustering means smaller lot sizes, which means community septic, which led to skepticism from the town board.

Under the initial 22-lot proposal, each home sat on a 30,000-square-foot parcel of land that was large enough to accommodate a septic system; the clustered lot sizes are closer to 20,000 square feet each. Easton said that the proposed community septic system was, in effect, a giant version of a home system. Sewer lines would be run from each home to four septic tanks and a leach field located at the entrance to the subdivision.

The system is designed to use just two of the four septic tanks at a time; the tanks have a 30-year life cycle, so at the end of that period, the two unused tanks would be hooked into the sewer system and the two used tanks would be replaced.

Easton then made a suggestion that gave the board pause: “We’re proposing this septic field be taken over by the town.”

The problem is that sewer lines — public or private — typically run under the center of a road, in the town’s right-of-way, which, Easton claimed, would make it tough to differentiate who owns what. There would be private infrastructure within a town right-of-way that runs to a septic field owned by the homeowners’ association.

If the town took ownership, he said, the subdivision could become a sewer district and homeowners could be charged an assessment by the town for maintaining the system.  

“But obviously, if you say no, which is your right, I have to look at other options, which is basically forming a transportation corporation for maintaining the septic system,” Easton said.

“I’ll speak for myself, but about the community-septic aspect and whether the town would take that over, I think we have to look at that a little bit more ... For various reasons, obviously, you have continued maintenance costs [as well as] liability issues,” said board member Daniel Leinung.

Easton’s request to the board to socialize his risk has precedent in New Scotland. The town will eventually be taking ownership of the sewer system at the Kensington Woods development off of Hilton Road. But there are significant differences between the developments and their sewer systems.

The town agreed to take over the Kensington Woods sewer system in part because it is a cluster development; had it been conventionally zoned, there is the possibility that much of the project’s 184 acres could have been developed.

By clustering, 82 acres of open space were preserved.

Supervisor Douglas LaGrange told The Enterprise this week that Kensington Woods has a hybrid sewer system that has proven to work well.

Each home in Kensington Woods has a septic tank, LaGrange said, but in this system, the effluent that would normally dissipate into a leach field instead is sent through underground piping to a treatment facility where it is filtered and discharged into a creek.

The system is expensive, LaGrange said, but it’s economically feasible for Kensington Woods because the cost is being spread across what will eventually be nearly 170 homes.

With a hybrid sewer system probably being too costly for the developers of the Krumkill Road proposal (homes there are expected to be priced around $400,000), LaGrange was asked if the town board would consider allowing that project’s proposed sewer system, “We’ll entertain it,” he said.


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