The Town of Fallsburg has seen remarkable growth over the past few years, which has resulted in increased demand for resources, especially water and sewer utilities. Unfortunately, the current infrastructure falls short of meeting the state’s standards to accommodate future growth during peak months of July and August.
In 2017, as a result, the town implemented a temporary moratorium and reevaluated its comprehensive plan recognizing the need to address the challenges posed by rapid development.
During town and planning board meetings now, the town has made it clear to developers that they “build at their own risk” due to the limited capacity of water and sewer utilities. This warning reflects the uncertainty surrounding water and sewer connections for new projects.
In 2022, Fallsburg issued notices to residents, urging them to conserve water and electricity during the summer months. The rising temperatures, coupled with the growing population, have put significant strain on an already aging water system.
To tackle these issues, the town enacted a law requiring projects to obtain a Department of Public Works (DPW) permit before receiving permits for construction work. This permit ensures that the project can be connected to the existing system without overburdening its capacity.
“I don’t like the word moratorium it has a negative connotation from when they were doing the Comprehensive Plan and the buildings zoning moratorium was very adversarial, contentious I guess it was and it was zoning it was over the zoning. This is a moratorium in essence and we don’t have it for all the projects that we have,” said Fallsburg’s Town Supervisor, Katherine Rappaport.
With approximately 13 ongoing construction projects, 21 projects in the planning board process, and 18 projects that have received planning board approval, Fallsburg is witnessing a surge in development. Many of these projects involve the construction of significant developments with multiple units.
For instance, Mountain Acres by New Road is constructing 191 units, and Mountain Crest Mobile Homes by New Road is building 72 manufactured homes. Luxor Jr in Loch Sheldrake proposes 100 units, while Zimmerman Rd Townhouses on New York State Route 52 is looking to develop 44 units.
Despite the concerns raised by residents during public hearings, Ken Ellsworth, Fallsburg’s Town Engineer, assures them that the planning and zoning boards have the authority to regulate construction based on existing codes.
This offers some control over growth and development.
Implementing a complete halt or moratorium on new projects has been suggested, but according to Ellsworth, the lengthy process involved in project development and the involvement of multiple government agencies make alternative solutions more feasible.
Fallsburg has taken a proactive approach in providing water and sewer services, recognizing their importance in attracting development. The demand for housing in Fallsburg has increased, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, as people sought safer and more spacious options outside the city.
However, meeting the increased demand for water during peak seasons and ensuring proper distribution poses challenges. Fallsburg’s population nearly triples during the summer months as seasonal residents, businesses, and camps return to the Catskills.
To address these issues, the town has undertaken various infrastructure improvement projects. Ellsworth emphasizes the importance of replacing aging water towers with larger capacity tanks, repairing and replacing water lines, and upgrading sewer systems. These initiatives aim to expand water storage capabilities and enhance the distribution network to accommodate the growing population.
Residents need not worry about the town running out of water, according to Ellsworth. Outside of July and August, Fallsburg has sufficient resources to support its full-time residents.
“We have a plan moving forward. We went out to bid months ago for the water tower, we wanted that installed by this summer, which will replace two water towers that we have, we are increasing the capacity of these water towers from I think 350,000 roughly to roughly a million gallon tanks. So there’s two of those we already secured the bid, they didn’t feel that it was enough time for them to be able to do it during their offseason last year. So as soon as our season ends in September, they’re going to be moving forward and put in we’re going to have roughly maybe 60% More than water storage for next summer. So that’s one of the things that we’ve implemented,” said Rappaport.
Fallsburg’s Town Supervisor, Katherine Rappaport, adds that the town has been actively engaging with state and federal officials to seek support for infrastructure development. Financial assistance is crucial to address the town’s unique challenges.
“Jobs that need to be done here, all of the repiping replacement and the sewers, the wells, all of that we need assistance. My goal was to continually push out the name Fallsburg like ‘Do not forget’ and trying to to make sure that when they find an extra few dollars maybe it’s going to come down to Fallsburg because they’re the ones that don’t want to be known as the people that didn’t try to help an entire town address its water and sewer needs,” said Rappaport.
In addition to infrastructure improvements, Fallsburg has consulted a hydrogeologist to identify more sites for additional water wells. Combined with the new water tanks, the town aims to increase capacity and water pressure.
While Fallsburg faces significant challenges due to rapid development, the town is adapting and moving forward. With infrastructure improvements, engagement with government officials, and a focus on addressing water and sewer capacity, Fallsburg aims to support its growing population and continue attracting development.