Public Hearing To Be Set for Sewer Extension to the Church

April Gornik and Eric Fischl in front of two of the large windows during a tour of what is to become The Church on Tuesday, 5/14/19.

“We shouldn’t lose 48 Madison and get caught in a quagmire,” Trustee Thomas Gardella said before the Sag Harbor Village Board voted on August 28 to conditionally approve the request of April Gornik and Eric Fischl to extend the Madison Street sewer main to their property, the former Sag Harbor United Methodist Church at 48 Madison Street, which they are transforming into a residency center for artists.

A public hearing on the proposal will be set by the Village Board at its meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, September 10.

Because of its high level of treatment, the village’s sewage plant has been called the gold standard for handling septic waste. The village is exploring a large-scale expansion of the system of sewer mains so that private, conventional septic systems, which can pollute groundwater and eventually nearby surface waters, could be eliminated in waterfront communities.

Mr. Gardella’s and the board’s concern is possible opposition from neighbors to the main extension because it could cost them about $7,000 or $8,000 in hookup fees plus usage fees. The village code requires that any business or residential property along the route of a new sewer main to connect to it.

The sewer extension, for which the artist couple from North Haven is expected to pay almost $100,000, will pass four properties, two residences and two businesses, on its way from its current terminus at Il Cappuccino restaurant to the former church.

The board agreed to send letters to the affected property owners alerting them to the requirement, which currently sets no time limit. As Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy put it, “We need to decide what the time frame is … We’ll send a letter out to them,” the mayor added, “and after that, we’ll codify it,” with an amendment to set the required time frame.

Asked to comment on the board’s decision, Matt Coffin, the owner with Natasha Esch of 40 Madison Street and the luxury home furnishings store Monc XIII, replied by text message, “My comment is simple. We need to be provided more facts and clarity on who would be covering the incremental annual expense” of sewer service “since the current septic program,” a private septic system, “works for us and we had already paid to have that updated a few years ago. But again: Someone should lay out the facts and costs.”

Richard DiPierro, who holds the mortgage at 43 Madison Street, where the shop Bloom operates, said, “I’m not going to pay for a new hookup when I have a perfectly running septic system.” He has told Mr. Fischl’s and Ms. Gornik’s attorney, Dennis Downes, he said, “They do the hookup. I’m not going to hire a plumber for that. I’m not compelled to do it.” He added that he didn’t “mind the usage fee” he would be paying as a sewer district customer.

No one answered knocks at the doors of the two private residences affected by the main extension.

Concerned about imposing what he called a “hardship” on neighbors, Mr. Gardella suggested that the board require the hookup only when an existing private septic system fails or requires a major upgrade. Harbor Committee member John Parker, who was observing the work session, worried that step might set a precedent virtually allowing properties “not to hook up indefinitely.”

The board voted 4-0 in favor of Trustee James Larocca’s motion to approve the extension, “subject to counsel and the response from the four neighbors,” he said. Trustee Aidan Corish was absent from the meeting.