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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, December 25, 2008

New federal stormwater regs may affect three developments in town

By Jo E. Prout

NEW SCOTLAND — The costs of implementing new federal requirements for stormwater management are being passed down to the local level.

The new Environmental Protection Agency restrictions could apply to three proposed developments in New Scotland.

“The idea is to keep stormwater from polluting streams and rivers,” Supervisor Thomas Dolin said this week. “It has a good purpose. As usual, they’ve passed down the cost to the local governments and the local taxpayers.”

Last week, the town board discussed the new requirements at its Wednesday meeting.

L. Michael Mackey, the town attorney, told the board that the restrictions were meant to keep sediment from new developments from getting into the Hudson River. Mackey called the requirements “expensive to maintain” and an “unfunded mandate.”

The board discussed consolidating retention basins for multiple housing developments. Town engineer Keith Menia said that the new retention basins need more maintenance than previous designs.

The board is considering accepting the responsibility for the expenses as it would for street clearing, or requiring developers to create bank accounts from which the maintenance costs could be paid perpetually from interest. In some cases, homeowners’ associations could be responsible for the costs, but, Dolin told The Enterprise, such associations can run out of funds.

“No matter what happens, we’re going to end up owning them,” he said of the basins at the meeting.

“Correct,” Menia said.

The restrictions apply to any new development that exceeds five acres, if an engineer determines that the site meets the EPA or state Department of Environmental Conservation criteria, Dolin said.

Three proposed developments currently under discussion in the town that exceed the five-acre minimum are the Charles Carrow senior housing development, the Colonie Country Club Estates, and the Kensington Woods housing development.

At the meeting, Menia said that a $10,000-per-lot fee in each development could be used to set up an account to pay for the estimated annual town maintenance cost of $60,000.

“Ten thousand dollars is a couple of bucks a month” in a mortgage for people buying $350,000 to $1.2 million homes, said resident Saul Abrams.

Rather than applying a special assessment to the future residents of the homes, Dolin said, the town could decide to share the tax burden among all town residents. The town, he said, giving an example to explain the argument, will have to pay to update the roads in 30 years. The town pays for services for its residents, he said.

“We’ve been exploring what other municipalities are doing,” Dolin said this week. 

“The calculations we’ve seen could be as high as an annual increase of local taxes at $20 per household. Some of the assumptions [for the calculations] have to be looked at,” Dolin said. “That’s where the discussions are right now.”

He hopes to continue the discussion with the board in January, he said.

“We’ve been advised that we’re not holding up the approval process” for the current proposed developments, he said. “It’s more a question of who’s going to bear the expense. Also, what’s fair? And, what’s legal? If you tax to individuals, you must show a special benefit. That’s not always legally easy to define,” Dolin said.

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