Lake Lincolndale and Lake Shenorock homeowners in Somers voted against a proposition Tuesday that would have created a public sewer district for 989 homeowners in the two communities was defeated 532-418.
The controversial and at times divisive issue would have established Somers Sewer District #2 and authorized borrowing of nearly $16.2 million to divert about 325,000 gallons of wastewater to Westchester County’s treatment plant in Peekskill.
Sewer opponents said they were vindicated after accusing the Somers Town Board of failing to be transparent about where much of the estimated $62.2 million for the project would come from as well as officials’ true intentions of having sewers to spur more development.
Another $10 million would have come from the $50 million East of Hudson funds the county obtained from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection for projects to help protect the city’s watershed and a $1.3 million grant had been lined up from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Lake Shenorock resident Linda Luciano, who helped spearhead the opposition, was one of the residents who said the $1,187 a year that would have been imposed on each parcel owner would have been too much for many seniors and retirees in the communities who are on fixed incomes or others who have lost income because of the pandemic.
“People think $1,200 isn’t a lot of money, will tell those people who are only paying $5,000 in taxes it may not be a lot of money, but to those of us, not just me but others, who are paying more than that, it’s pushing people out of their homes because it would not just have been $1,187 a year,” Luciano said. “That number always goes up. That was not discussed.”
Instead, the $10 million should be used toward helping those with failing sewers in the two communities, which is a small number of homeowners, she said.
Lake Lincolndale resident Judy Rath said significantly higher taxes wasn’t the only factor. For Rath, whose family bought her house in 1958, sewers would have altered the character of the community and likely ushered more development and larger houses.
“These communities, especially Lake Lincolndale, are so charming, so unique, so special, they’re really magical to me,” Rath said. “They’re time warps (from) the ‘50s, and once you destroy them, the likes will never be seen again and the disruption and the years of building and the noise and the pollution and the fear that all the small forested parcels will all be up for sale and large houses will be built.”
Rath also bristled at home town officials who refused to meet with sewer opponents to discuss alternative strategies and treated many of them as rabble-rousers.
Michael O’Keefe, chairman of the board of the Lake Lincolndale Property Owners Association, said a compilation of factors sunk the proposition, including many residents’ financial uneasiness made worse by the pandemic, the extra expense, an effective campaign waged by the opponents and missteps by the town. It also didn’t help that it was a toxic election season, he said.
O’Keefe also pointed to how the town had failed to include the Lake Lincolndale clubhouse into the district, believing that it was tax exempt and therefore ineligible, but that was not the case. It was then determined the association could petition to enter the district, which raised more suspicions among the opponents.
“I do think that enough doubt was placed in people’s minds with the constant campaign in opposition, and I think it’s pretty clear,” O’Keefe said. “I did hear from some people that sort of parroted some of the things that were in the mailings.”
O’Keefe said he didn’t know what would happen next but suggested a smaller sewer project for Lake Lincolndale, which does not have public water and wells could be threatened by the septic systems, could be considered.