The arrogance and recalcitrance of New Hartford and Oneida County officials is simply breathtaking. Knowing full well of the problem with sewage pollution of the Mohawk River, they approved/allowed another sewer hookup for Lowes.
All sides seem to be scrambling to look for loopholes -- drawing distinctions between sewer extensions, laterals, and hookups -- in order to allow development to continue. Pretending that there is no problem is always easier than enforcing the law, especially when tax revenue can be gained and conflict with powerful developers can be avoided. Nevertheless, the project exacerbates the pollution problem and government at several levels appears to be allowing it to happen -- sending a clear message that the addition of another duplicative store to the tax base is more important than protecting the environment.
New Hartford can't pretend that it was unaware that there were issues here. In December 2005 DEC questioned how liquid waste from the project was to be disposed of, putting New Hartford on notice that waste disposal needed to be examined. Nevertheless, New Hartford issued a "Negative Declaration" months later, stating that there were no negative environmental impacts to the project. In issuing its Neg Dec, New Hartford simply ignored the sewer overflow problem. In September 2006 DEC called New Hartford's attention to the inadequacy of its environmental review. But New Hartford's response, apparently, was "dam the torpedoes and full speed ahead." And Oneida County, which should have been an involved agency in this process, simply let its facilities be abused.
Simply put, New Hartford's environmental review of this project was defective when it ignored the potential impacts of sewage. That alone should be enough to set aside its Negative Declaration, and, essentially, make void "ab initio" all actions/decisions based upon it, including the issuance of Lowes' building permit. Of course, setting aside the Neg Dec will require someone to go to court.
A similar situation in Watertown resulted in the court setting aside a planning board decision. Interestingly, that case involved the same developer that we have here in the Lowes project (COR), with Pyramid Corp. (a competing developer) bringing the action. But isn't it a shame that the public would have to depend on private parties to enforce the law?
Clearly, there is a case here to be made. And clearly, the government is in the best position to bring it. The question is, will the government move to protect the public's interest, or will the public be forced to hope that some aggrieved private party will move to protect its interest. It raises the question: Why have government if it does not enforce the law?