[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Board of the Town of Queensbury as indicated in article histories. Amendments noted where applicable.]
[Adopted 10-15-2018 by L.L. No. 2-2018]
This article shall be known as "Septic Inspection Upon Property Transfer."
Enactment of Chapter 137 of the Queensbury Town Code is pursuant to Article 16 of the Town Law and Article 3 of the Public Health Law.
The intent of this article is to better protect water bodies from exposure to excess nutrients and pollutants. The Town of Queensbury finds that the occurrence of such nutrients and pollutants is increased by the presence of inadequately functioning septic systems proximate to water bodies. In addition, such septic systems are more likely to be a threat to public health with particularly acute impacts upon the general public through impairing and contaminating precious ecological resources of the Town of Queensbury and rendering drinking water unsafe. In determining the geographic scope of this article, the Town further finds that it is desirable and efficient to rely upon the zoning district boundaries of the Town of Queensbury Waterfront Residential (WR) Zone as properties within this zoning district are proximate to water bodies within the Town. As to water bodies not surrounded or adjacent to such zoning district, such properties are zoned in such a manner that has adequately protected and will continue to protect such water bodies and additional regulation is not currently needed in such areas at this time.
Applicability. This article shall apply to conveyances of real property located wholly or partially in the Waterfront Residential Zone, as defined in the Town Code, occurring on January 1, 2019, and thereafter.
Property transfer inspections.
Prior to any conveyance of real property in the Town of Queensbury Waterfront Residential (WR) Zone where the property utilizes an on-site wastewater treatment system (OWTS), the OWTS must be inspected by the Town of Queensbury Building and Codes Enforcement Office (herein referred to as the "Building and Codes Enforcement Office"). The inspection shall include a septic tank pump out by a NYSDEC registered septic hauler and all seepage pits and septic drainfield distribution boxes (D-box) accepting effluent from a septic tank must be uncovered and opened by the property owner or their agent prior to inspection. The property transfer inspection and pump out shall be arranged by the property owner as early in the conveyance of real property process as possible in order to obtain an accurate and timely assessment of the OWTS. Upon submission of a complete application to the Building and Codes Enforcement Officer and payment of the applicable fee, the property owner must make arrangements to schedule the inspection with no less than 48 hours' advance notice and shall coordinate with the septic hauler to be on site simultaneously. The cost of the inspection, as set forth in the Town's Fee Schedule Ordinance, shall be paid to the Town of Queensbury prior to the inspection. Inspections must be undertaken within one year of the application or a renewal application with payment of the associated fee will be required.
[Amended 1-13-2020 by L.L. No. 1-2020]
No such conveyance shall take place subject to this article until and unless:
The owner/seller has obtained from the Building and Codes Enforcement Office a letter of acknowledgement demonstrating satisfactory compliance with this section;
The owner/seller has obtained a variance/waiver from the Town Board in accordance with this article; or
The conveyance is exempt from the property transfer inspection requirements and the owner/seller complies with all applicable provisions for exemption set forth in this article.
As used herein, the term "conveyance of real property" shall mean the transfer of the title of real estate, in the form of a deed or other legal instrument, whether or not recorded in the Office of the Warren County Clerk. It shall be violation of this article not to have the property inspected prior to the conveyance of real property.
Upon satisfactory inspection in accordance with the protocol set forth in Subsection B(5) below, the Building and Codes Enforcement Office will issue to the property owner a letter of acknowledgment confirming that the OWTS is functioning properly.
The OWTS inspection shall utilize the New York On-site Wastewater Treatment Training Network (OTN) materials, including the OTN System Inspection Request Form, Findings Worksheet and Site Report (Inspection Findings), all of which shall be available in the Building and Codes Enforcement Office. The following minimum standards shall apply to each inspection:
All septic tanks and holding tanks must be within 250 gallons of the minimum volume requirement; minimum volume includes bedrooms, rooms used for sleeping, Jacuzzi tubs and garbage grinders;
[Amended 1-13-2020 by L.L. No. 1-2020]
All holding tanks shall be equipped with a float switch with a 50% level alarm, a 100% high-level alarm located in a conspicuous place to indicate when pump out is necessary and a water shut off device. A copy of pump out records shall be submitted during the inspection prior to conveyance of real property;
[Amended 1-13-2020 by L.L. No. 1-2020]
For an aerobic treatment system or enhanced treatment unit (ETU), the new owner must send a signed copy of an updated service contract to the Town within 30 days after the conveyance of real property.
If the on-site wastewater treatment system is determined to be failing or inadequate, a written notice of violation will be issued. An approved compliance agreement to correct the violation must be obtained prior to conveyance of real property.
Exemption from property transfer inspection. The following conveyances of real property shall be exempt from the provisions of this article in the following situations and pursuant to the terms identified below:
[Amended 5-20-2019 by L.L. No. 5-2019]
The property to be sold or transferred will not be inhabited, and the new owner plans to demolish the existing structure and remove the OWTS within six months. In order to qualify for the exemption, a notarized affidavit must be submitted to the Building and Codes Enforcement Office stating that the dwelling will not be inhabited and that it will be demolished and the OWTS fully removed within six months. In addition, a check payable to the Town of Queensbury in the amount of $2,000 must accompany the notarized affidavit. Such funds will be held in a non-interest-bearing escrow account and will be released upon confirmation that demolition and removal have been timely carried out. Failure will result in forfeiture of the deposit pursuant to § 137-4C(6) unless an appeal to the Town Board is timely made pursuant to § 137-5, in which case the Town Board may grant an extension.
[Amended 1-13-2020 by L.L. No. 1-2020]
An OWTS inspection was not able to be completed prior to the conveyance of real property due to inclement weather. In order to qualify for the exemption, a notarized affidavit from the new property owner to complete the requisite OWTS inspection within six months of the date of the conveyance of real property, or June 1, whichever comes first, must be filed with the Building and Codes Enforcement Office. A check payable to the Town of Queensbury in the amount of $2,000 will be held in a non-interest-bearing escrow account and shall be released upon the completion of a satisfactory OWTS inspection from the Building and Codes Enforcement Office.
The property to be sold or transferred contains an existing OWTS that does not comply with the provisions of this article, and the prospective purchasers and/or the Seller wish to forgo an inspection in favor of installing an approved OWTS within six months of the transfer of property. In order to qualify for the exemption, a notarized affidavit must be submitted to the Building and Codes Enforcement Office stating that the existing OWTS will be replaced within six months from transfer of property. The affidavit must be accompanied by a site plan, including adequate detail to demonstrate that the replacement OWTS will comply with this article, together with a check payable to the Town of Queensbury in the amount of $2,000. Such funds will be held in a non-interest-bearing escrow account and will be released upon issuance of a certificate of compliance from the Building and Codes Enforcement Office.
During the OWTS inspection, a failure of the septic system was determined. Due to winter and frozen conditions, the repair to an existing OWTS could not occur or a new OWTS could not be installed before the conveyance of real property. In order to qualify for the exemption, a notarized affidavit from the new property owner to complete the installation or repair of the septic system within six months from the date of the conveyance of real property, or June 1, whichever comes first, must be filed with the Building and Codes Enforcement Office. A check payable to the Town of Queensbury in the amount of $2,000 will be held in a non-interest-bearing escrow account and shall be released upon the completion of the repair or installation of a new septic system and a satisfactory OWTS inspection from the Building and Codes Enforcement Office.
There is record of the property's OWTS having passed Town inspection within the last three years.
Failure to complete the inspection, obtain the permit or complete all repairs/installations identified in the preceding subsections of this section within the time provided or any subsequent deadline established by the Building and Codes Enforcement Office will result in forfeiture of the moneys held in escrow, and the Town may use such funds toward abating the conditions caused by each such violation of this article.
Failure of OWTS. Failure of an existing OWTS occurs when the standards for lawful OWTS as set forth in Chapter 136 and this article are not met. While not exhaustive, some examples of a failing system include the following:
Lack of a pre-treatment vessel (i.e., septic tank, aerobic treatment unit, ETU, etc.) prior to effluent discharge to any subsurface treatment (soil treatment area or absorption field);
There is a discharge of effluent directly or indirectly to the ground's surface, with surface breakouts, ponding or saturated soils over the soil treatment area;
Direct pipe surface discharge of grey water (into a dry well, over an embankment, into a roadside ditch or stream/tributary, etc.);
A dye test results in the presence of dye on the ground surface or adjacent/downstream water body;
There is a backup of sewage into the home, building, septic tank or facility as a result of a septic tank overload or malfunction, or a clogged soil treatment area;
The septic tank requires pumping more than four times per year and/or sewage is observed flowing back into the septic tank from the secondary treatment area during pump out;
Presence of a metal septic tank that is undersized and/or corroded;
A cesspool, defined as a covered hole or pit used to receive untreated sewage from a house or building constructed as a primary source of wastewater disposal;
A holding tank that discharges effluent to surrounding subsurface areas;
No septic tank, seepage pit, enhanced treatment unit or soil treatment area (STA) shall be permitted to discharge to any natural outlet or adjoining property.
Access to parcel for inspection. On properties for which an OWTS inspection has been requested by the owner or owner's agent pursuant to this article, the Building and Codes Enforcement Office shall be permitted by the property owner to make a physical inspection of the lands and premises in order to determine compliance with this article.
Appeals from determinations of the Building and Codes Enforcement Office and/or requests for variance/waivers from the provisions of this article must be sought from the Town of Queensbury Town Board as the local Board of Health within 60 days.
Forms for such Appeals and/or requests for variance and waivers will be made available to the public in the Building and Codes Enforcement Office. Such forms must be properly filled out and must be submitted to the Building and Codes Enforcement Office with payment of the applicable fee as established by the Town Board.
In evaluating appeals from determinations of the Building and Codes Enforcement Office, the Town Board may consider whatever information it deems relevant, including any evidence or information submitted by the applicant and any information obtained from the Building and Codes Enforcement Office and/or Town Engineer. In the event additional information is needed, the Town Board may direct a subsequent inspection of the OWTS at issue, in which case the applicant will not be required to make any additional inspection payments.
In regard to any request for variance or waivers, such applications will be governed by the procedure set forth in Town Code Section § 136-44.1C(1) through (3). The Town Board should take into consideration all matters it deems relevant, including the age of the OWTS, whether it appears to be functioning, its proximity to any water body, its age, the circumstances concerning the request for variance or waiver and the hardship to the property owner in the event no variance or waiver is granted.
The above remedies shall be exhausted prior to any judicial review.
If a property owner fails to complete an inspection required by this article, or to allow access to the property for the required inspection, or if the property owner fails to comply with any other provision of this article, a notice of violation may be issued by the Building and Codes Enforcement Office mandating the compliance with the inspection requirements.
In the event the property owner in its capacity as grantor was issued a notice of violation and such violation continues for a period of six months, the current property owner (or grantee) too shall be deemed to be in violation of this article and may be subject to enforcement proceedings.
An offense against any provision of this article shall constitute a violation, punishable by a fine not exceeding $950, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 15 days, or both. Each week such violation continues after notification to the person in violation shall constitute a separate violation.