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Town’s sewer needs holds up housing projects in town of Watertown

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The town of Watertown is waiting for proof that two proposed housing projects west of the city will receive financial support from development agencies before finalizing sewer plans and giving site plan approvals.

COR Development Co., Fayetteville, plans to build 305 apartments in seven buildings south of Target in its Towne Center, Route 3. Morgan Management, Rochester, has proposed 394 units north of Sam’s Club on Route 202. But the developers need $2.9 million in infrastructure improvements, including a sewer line built along 202.

The Town Council is waiting to see whether the projects receive public money to help them attract commercial loans before taking steps to create a new district or borrow for the project, two necessary steps. Without sewer service finalized, the Planning Board will not approve the projects.

“We have been advised that the town does not wish us to go ahead and schedule a public hearing,” Planning Board Co-Chairman Thomas E. Boxberger said during a special meeting Monday morning.

Supervisor Joel R. Bartlett later said, “We wanted to make sure that the RFP awards went to the specific projects. We didn’t want to get too far out ahead and form a district at this point.”

Representatives from Morgan Management were surprised, but Mr. Boxberger said if the developers received awards, he would have the verbal OK from Mr. Bartlett to schedule a public hearing at the next Planning Board meeting Sept. 7. The public hearing would be at a special meeting sometime in September. The council next meets Sept. 8.

Representatives from COR did not attend the meeting Monday, but were informed beforehand of the new timeline.

The two projects account for nearly 700 of the 1,179 units being considered for funding through the Community Rental Housing Program. The program has collected commitments of $7 million from the Development Authority of the North Country, Jefferson County and the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency. Officials from those organizations will work on a committee to award contracts based on the developers’ bids.

The committee has the task of attracting construction of 1,035 units, the expected gap between available units and the off-post need as Fort Drum soldiers return from Afghanistan and have less frequent deployments. The committee will review the proposals over the next month and could announce preliminary awards as soon as early September, DANC officials said last week.

The two developers have made oral commitments to contribute to the sewer project, Mr. Bartlett said.

“We’re letting the attorneys draft some language to that effect,” he said. “The numbers are a little bit different than originally.”

The likely improvements mean COR will pay for improving a gravity main in the Jefferson County Corporate Park, to the tune of $459,000. Another sewer district, No. 7, would be created for a new gravity sewer line to be installed from the Morgan Management project north along County Route 202 to County Route 200 and Fisher Circle in the corporate park, where the pump station would have to be upgraded. From there, a new force main would be placed alongside the current force main behind Jefferson Community College and bypass another pump station to the city’s wastewater treatment plant north of the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

Morgan Management would pay $1.4 million in debt service for the project in coming years, Mr. Bartlett said. Now, the district would have only three property owners, also including Philip J. Simao’s Route 57 Development LLC and the Thomas G. Puccia family’s 20774 Coffeen St. Properties LLC. As the land is developed and the assessed value rises, the debt service will be redivided among the property owners based on assessed value.

Mr. Bartlett said the town expects to sign agreements with the developers in the next few weeks on the sewer negotiations and work out a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with Morgan Management. The county and Watertown City School District also must agree.

On both projects, one outstanding issue is busing children to school, as the district is loath to drive onto private property to pick up children. The board encouraged Morgan Management to develop a walking trail to the northern edge of its property instead of just sidewalks to the southern end. The board also will ask COR to cut the number of access points inside its plaza to the access road that runs straight south from Route 3 west of Target to the proposed site.

“I’d like to see fewer access points to a road with residential traffic,” Mr. Boxberger said.

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