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Town not responsible to fix Milton flooding

October 3rd, 2012

For months Milton residents at the intersection of Clarks Lane and Bills Lane have come before the Town Board looking to them for a long term solution to stop water from flowing off of a farm across the street and flooding their homes and yards.

The farm is owned by William Nicklin and Dr. Anthony Pascale and is being leased to farmer Amy Hepworth, who planted tomato plants on the site this past spring. Hepworth was caught by surprise this summer by a rash of rare flash flooding that occurred in this small area of town. Since those weather anomalies, she has taken significant steps to fix the problem, which to date has cost her a considerable sum of money. She has promised to continue her efforts toward finding a permanent solution to the problem.

The Town Board authorized a $2,000 study by Bell Engineering to develop several options. Phil Bell suggested the creation of two large retention ponds on the north and south sides of the parcel, additional grading to stem the flow of water and the possible installation of several box culverts.

The issue of who will pay for what improvements, however, has been touched upon by the Town Board only briefly and has yet to progress much beyond the discussion stage.

A residential subdivision was once proposed for the site by a former developer before he pulled out at the last minute. It was after this that the property was purchased by Nicklin and Pascale.

Documents reveal that the subdivision got to the point where a drainage district was established and an engineered map was created. This showed the location of 21 proposed homes, several retention ponds and the installation of a high density polyethylene piping system under Clarks Lane and down along Bills Lane and into an existing drainage system; aimed at taking care of expected storm water runoff.

In a letter to then Supervisor Al Lanzetta, dated Oct. 21, 2009, the engineering firm states that “the drainage district is being formed at the request of the Planning Board to ensure the cost of maintenance of the drainage facilities for the proposed Clark subdivision is the responsibility of the proposed lot owners.”

In addition, the file contains a document for a public hearing on April 12, 2010 to establish the drainage district. The document clearly states “The improvements shall be made by the developer of the project, as a condition of Planning Board approval.” The document confirms that the town is to spend no money on this project “since the cost of the improvements shall be borne by the developer.” This was signed on March 8, 2010 with yes votes from present sitting Councilmen Eric Affuso, Ed Molinelli and Anthony Pascale.

Supervisor Stephen Osborn, who at the time of the failed subdivision was a member of the Planning Board, has stated he was aware of this project. He recently sought legal advice on the town’s present day fiscal responsibilities for the flooding on Clarke’s Lane and to the property owners and the farmer.

Osborn spoke with town attorney Ron Blass, who was also the attorney for the Planning Board at the time of the proposed subdivision. Blass informed him that “the matter is entirely an issue between the homeowners on Clarke’s Lane, the landowner and Amy [Hepworth] all together.” Blass further advised Osborn that “the landowners and Amy should work it out on who they think should solve the problem.” Osborn said the Town Board can be a useful mediator on this issue.

Osborn said “the homeowners are trying to get the town to admit responsibility and to pay for the project.” Blass informed Osborn that “just because water passes over the road does not make the town responsible.” Osborn said the attorney is not implying that money has to be spent, especially because a long-term solution has not yet been clearly identified.

Osborn said Blass emphasized that the town is not financially responsible to fix this problem, nor should town personnel or materials be utilized for any permanent solution. Osborn noted, however, that the Town Board is still trying to keep the homeowners and Hepworth talking so that a mutually agreeable and effective solution can be reached.

By MARK REYNOLDS
mreynolds@tcnewspapers.com

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