Septic Retaining Walls To Be Enforced Same Way As Fences
After Southampton Town officials pondered laws exempting walls around sewage treatment plants from wall and fence requirements, they decided on Tuesday April 9th to enforce the Code as it is already written.
Under the current city law, retaining walls of septic tanks are regulated like any other wall and fence – which will be the case in the future, unless a new law is written specifically dealing with such walls.
Cold Spring Point residents pointed out poor supervision of the walls to city officials when a set of 6- to 7-foot high retaining walls was approved along the property lines in their neighborhood.
Cold Spring Point Road homeowner Anthony Aufiero told members of the city council in February that a retaining wall approved on his neighbor’s property would collide with the shared property line and affect his ability to plant a buffer. He also said the walls are causing an eyesore and danger.
“I understand the concern,” said city overseer Jay Schneiderman during the city government’s April 9 meeting. “This came to us because the building inspector allowed 6-foot or 8-foot walls on the property line, which were required for these plumbing systems – at least that was presented – and this created these terrible aesthetics for the neighbors and concerns about flooding and Changes in water movements and all kinds of concerns. Nobody wants to live next to a barracks. “
The retaining walls are built around septic tanks, including new nitrogen-reducing systems approved by the Suffolk County Department of Health. The county and city provide incentives for those who live near waterways and want to upgrade their sewage treatment plants.
To prevent water from entering the systems, they must be at least 2 to 3 feet above groundwater. So, walls in the form of a box are placed around the sewer system and then covered with filling.
According to the city law, these walls should be regulated in the same way as walls around tennis courts, with the same restrictions. Until recently, however, they were not subjected to the same test as the Southampton City Planning Department moved the walls forward once the Department of Health approved plans for a sewer system.
Deputy City Attorney Katie Garvin told members of the city council that Michael Benincasa, the city’s chief building inspector, is examining the retaining walls much more closely after concerns were raised. She said Mr Benincasa recently examined three retaining walls and only one had to do with a sewer system. Realizing the wall was unnecessarily high, said Mrs. Garvin, thinking it might be used to raise the grade of the yard. Therefore, Mr. Benincasa sent the application back to the applicant for revision.
Ms. Garvin also said she met with the county’s health department for guidance on how to go about wall height.
“I said at close quarters, ‘What is the minimum requirement?’ And they said, “We can’t tell you. We have no idea. We need to look at the property and the groundwater and the system,” said Ms. Garvin. “They said they are more than happy to be with the city work.”
She recommended that members of the city council implement the city code as it is currently written and regulate retaining walls like all walls and fences in the city. If the city council wanted to explore other avenues, they would help.
“There’s no room in it [legislation] I designed to really bring in something other than exempt or not exempt, ”added Garvin.
According to current regulations, 4-foot walls are allowed in the front yard.
Christine Scalera, a member of the city council, said she’d love to see that drop to 2 feet and if a homeowner wanted to go higher they should have to show the need.
Mr Schneiderman said he was concerned about walls that were 4 feet high because if they were filled with dirt or sand on one side the opposite side would have a 4 foot drop. Additionally, a fence would have to be placed on top of the wall to prevent anyone from falling 4 feet, which makes the total height of the structure at least 8 feet.
Even so, he was on board to enforce the code as it is written, with 4 feet being the maximum height. Anything higher, he said, would require a deviation.
John Bouvier, member of the city council, said he would like the agency to have a closer look at the code.
“It has a negative impact on the installation of I / O systems, which I don’t want to see,” he said of innovative and alternative wastewater treatment systems on site. “I think we can do better with the code we have.”