Homeowner’s request to raise home leads to cesspool discussion

A seemingly innocuous application to raise a home that sits in a flood zone turned into a debate last Thursday about frequently submerged cesspools located in that area and the harm they may be doing to the aquifer.

The case involves a wetlands permit application from Stephen Bull and Terese Svoboda, who are seeking to raise their home on Sandy Beach Road so it doesn’t flood as often.

Mr. Bull said at a public hearing in February that the house has been flooded repeatedly by various storms, and that it’s very old. He said he wants to raise the structure by three feet to protect against future storms. Greenport Village code requires all wetlands permits to be reviewed by the village Conservation Advisory Council, which must file a report with the Village Board on each application.

That report basically says the board would be comfortable with the application so long as the county health department gives its approval to the home’s septic system, which is often underwater.

Mr. Bull’s home is not the only one on Sandy Beach Road in this situation, according to CAC member John Saladino.

“We allow 26 homes to defecate into the bay and into the creek on a daily basis,” Mr. Saladino said at last Thursday’s Village Board meeting. “How do we turn a blind eye to that?”

He said the village is spending in money in other areas, such as collecting runoff at road ends and building storm drains, to protect the quality of the surface water.

The Village Board plans to vote on a resolution Thursday, March 28 to declare that the wetlands application “will not have a significant negative impact on the environment.”

Mayor George Hubbard Jr. also suggested the board take the CAC’s advice.

At last Thursday’s meeting, village attorney Joe Prokop and village administrator Paul Pallas debated whether the village is required to send the application to the county health department.

Trustee Mary Bess Phillips said that if the board is going to make Mr. Bull go before the county, it should make all of the Sandy Beach homeowners go as well.

“I wouldn’t object to that,” Trustee Julia Robins said. She backed the CAC recommendation to require that the application get county approval. She said she has no objection to the applicants’ plan to raise the house, but added, “I have questions about all of the houses down there with their sewers emptying into the creek.”

Mr. Bull, who attended last week’s Village Board meeting on another matter, didn’t speak on the issue of his application.

But at a Feb. 28 public hearing on the application, he objected to the provision to make him go before the county health department.

“We’re just raising the house,” he said. “We’re not increasing the square footage of the house; we’re not flushing the toilet more often.”

He said he’s never had to pump out the cesspool. But he acknowledged during the hearing that he doesn’t believe he could get approval from the county for his existing system.

Mr. Saladino said that in a prior application from Mr. Bull, the he county already told the village the application is a “matter for local determination,” meaning that the county will leave the ruling up to the village.

Greenport has considered extending its sewer district to the Sandy Beach area, although cost has been an issue, since homeowners there would be hit with large tax increases because there are so few homes.

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