I’ll try to be as clear as possible. There is a myth that the lack of sewers west across the I-190 is what has kept Grand Island undeveloped, green, and spacious. That’s just not true. Sure, if existing sewers were in place, development would be easier. But there are already sewer districts west of the I-190. For example, the property across from the new Holiday Inn Express is and has been a sewer district since 1991. Why is there not some expansive development there yet? It costs money. There was no market it for it.
But make no mistake, if demand grows (the market grows), development (including sewer expansion) can only happen with Town consent. Your elected Town Board would have to give the green light.
Does the Welcome Center need sewers?
The plans for the New York State Welcome Center (currently being built by Alvin road and Whitehaven) have been there all along. You can go look at them. They have been at the Town of Grand Island—sitting in the engineering office—since before the last Town Engineer retired. Nothing was hidden.
In those plans you can see large holding tanks. Those holding tanks (used to collect human waste) can be used, not indefinitely, but for a while. Eventually, they would have to put in a permanent solution, such as sewers or a septic system, which the DEC would highly scrutinize (as they always do). Still, it’s not an impossible task. Keep in mind, developments (and construction projects!) across the world change and adapt based on changed circumstances—whether you are building a house or shed or a 30-million-dollar welcome center.
The State is, however, looking to change the plans, which they are allowed to do. They are exploring the option of a sewer, but just like any development on Town land (the Welcome Center is on State land, but the sewer connection would be to Town land), they can’t do that without our permission. Here’s the thing. They haven’t even formally asked us yet. They just asked to do a test—read on.
New York State has been up front with the Town
Way back, when plans for the Welcome Center were first considered, the State did discuss sewers with our Town Engineer. There was no secret plan to get sewers without our consent. It was always one of their options.
So why wasn’t it in the original documents? Well, the Town Engineer expressed concerns about whether our sewer system could handle additional influx. The reality is, however, that one person can’t make that determination. You need a study, and that’s what the State is doing right now—at their cost.
That feasibility study will test our current sewer system to see if it can take the increase of sewage. If it can’t, guess what? No sewers. The test is beneficial to the Town regardless, because through it the state is gathering valuable data on flows throughout our entire system. Ask our engineers.
If they pass the test, should we allow them to connect?
Let’s say the study shows we can handle it, and the Welcome Center wishes to connect to our sewer system. The town would still need to grant permission for them to connect. If the town grants permission, however, the Welcome Center would not be part of a sewer district. They are adjacent, which means that even if we allowed them to connect to the existing sewer district, no other properties could connect to them under our current law unless the Town took the additional step of creating a whole new sewer district.
What’s the benefit of allowing them to connect to the existing sewer district? We’d make cash because of the sewer tax — maybe a substantial amount. What’s the benefit of creating a whole new sewer district? We could get even more cash from everyone else who connects, like the car dealerships, all the houses up and down Whitehaven, etc. Please remember, a new sewer district is far cleaner and environmentally safe then a bunch of leaky septic systems. But what about Love’s?
Love’s has nothing to do with the Welcome Center
The Welcome Center and the proposed Love’s Truck Stop are two separate projects — completely unrelated. If we create a new sewer district to include the Welcome Center, the houses and the car dealership, etc., couldn’t Love’s connect too? Yes, but we’d have to OK it.
Please understand the facts. First, Love’s does not need sewer. They are a very rich company and can put any type of high-tech septic system in they want. Please remember, Love’s builds these trucks stops all over. They can build them in the middle of the desert. They could put their own mini sewer treatment plant in. It all depends on how much they want it.
In a meeting with the Planning Board, however, representatives for Love’s stated that they would like to link up sewers with the Welcome Center. They did not say they had those discussions with the Thruway Authority. In fact, they had not! They just said that it would be nice. Of course it would, because it would save Love’s the cash of putting in septic.
But Thruway Authority isn’t interested in helping them. In a letter dated February 12, 2018 in response to a letter that I sent requesting clarification, the Thruway Authority stated definitively that they “Have not had discussions with Love’s . . . the Welcome Center and any proposed Love’s project are two separate and distinct projects.”
Further, and most importantly, there is no Love’s project. It was just floated as an idea. And the Town passed a law that would make the development of any such project very difficult, if not impossible.
So where are we now?
I am totally against the Love’s Truck Stop or any truck stop. Do you really think the guy who’s been called a tree-hugging liberal would fight for a Love’s?
This is more artificial drama. In fact, the only people I ever heard say a word in support of the truck stop are former Republican councilmen. The first time I heard of Love’s actually putting forward a tangible idea is when I walked into meeting with several Republican councilmen. At that moment, I told Love’s (in very clear terms) that I would fight them. Those councilmen can testify to that. They were silent, however, either out of respect or indifference. I’ll take a lie detector on that!
The Welcome Center? I’m all for that. It will be beautiful. If they can pass a flow test and want to tie into our sewers, I’ll vote for it. I’ll vote for it not because it will allow for expansion of infrastructure. I’ll vote for it because it’s an amazing facility celebrating our region (on what used to be a Thruway dump) that will add valuable sewer tax to our Town. It’s money for infrastructure repair, coming from a project that is already being built and has no connection to Love’s, unless this Town Board allows it.
P.S. Cannon Design discussion next week
Cannon may close. The rumors are rampant. I wanted to address this week. But do not worry. I have been in discussions with those folks, and this may mean an opportunity for Grand Island. Where one door closes, another opens.