Village of Sloatsburg v. Town of Ramapo
Lead Agency Dispute
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Commissioner's Determination of Lead Agency
under Article 8 of the
Environmental Conservation Law
PROJECT: Application by K. Hovnanian Acquisition, Inc. for a zone change and site plan approval to construct the Highland Park Condominium Project in the Village of Sloatsburg and the Town of Ramapo, Rockland County
DISPUTING AGENCIES: Village of Sloatsburg Board of Trustees and the Town of Ramapo Planning Board
This decision to designate the Village of Sloatsburg Board of Trustees as lead agency for the conduct of the environmental review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) is made pursuant to Article 8 of the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) and 6 NYCRR Part 617. This decision is based on my finding that the impacts of the project will occur primarily in the Village of Sloatsburg and the Board of Trustees in its review of the proposed zoning change has broader authority than the Town of Ramapo for investigation of the impacts from the proposed action.
The proposed project is the application by K. Hovnanian Acquisition, Inc. to construct Highland Park, a 321-unit condominium complex with associated recreational facilities on an approximately 58-acre site located in the Village of Sloatsburg, Rockland County. The proposal also includes the construction of a 164,000 gallons-per-day wastewater treatment plant to be constructed on a 2.9-acre parcel of land in the Town of Ramapo.
The Village of Sloatsburg Board of Trustees has to approve a change in zone from R-40 to a Planned Residential Development (PRD). The Town of Ramapo has to issue approvals for the construction of the wastewater treatment plant, including the sewers and the rights of way that will occur within the portion of the site that lies in the Town of Ramapo.
Claims regarding the timeliness of the petition by the Town of Ramapo and the Town's status as an involved agency have been raised by the Village of Sloatsburg in their response to the Town's request that I designate a lead agency for this action. I find that the letter dated June 21, 1999 from the Town of Ramapo and the potential for an approval from the Town regarding the wastewater treatment facility adequately respond to these issues. Therefore, I choose to review the project and resolve the petition on its merits.. In resolving a lead agency dispute, I am guided by the three criteria listed in order of importance in paragraph 6 NYCRR Part 617.6(b)(5)(v). These are: (1) whether the anticipated impacts of the action being considered are primarily of statewide, regional or local significance (i.e., if such impacts are of primarily local significance, all other considerations being equal, the local agency involved will be lead agency); (2) which agency has the broadest governmental powers for investigation of the impacts of the proposed action; and (3) which agency has the greatest capability for providing the most thorough environmental assessment of the proposed action.
The first criterion relates to whether the anticipated impacts are primarily of statewide, regional or local significance. The proposed project, which includes the construction of housing units, recreational facilities, garages and roads, will be located entirely within the Village of Sloatsburg. In addition, a majority of the sewer rights of way and the trunk line will also be located within the Village of Sloatsburg. The only construction that may occur within the Town of Ramapo is associated with the potential construction of the wastewater treatment facility and the small portion of the trunk line that will be located in the Town of Ramapo. It is clear that a majority of the physical disturbance from construction and subsequent occupation of the development will occur in the Village. Since the anticipated impacts are local in nature and the majority of the impacts will occur in the Village of Sloatsburg, this criterion clearly points to the Village Board of Trustees as the likely lead agency.
The next criterion addresses the breadth of jurisdiction. Consideration of this criterion also reveals a distinction between the disputing agencies. The Village of Sloatsburg Board of Trustees must approve a zoning change to allow a PRD. In making this decision, the board will have to consider the basic land use question regarding the suitability of the site for a PRD and address concerns such as density and compliance with any siting requirements specified under the PRD. In comparison, the scope of the approval of the Town of Ramapo will be limited to the siting and construction of the wastewater treatment facility and the portion of the sewer system owed in the Town of Ramapo. The Town of Ramapo jurisdiction to mitigate any identified impacts would also be limited to this small portion of the project. Therefore, I find that the jurisdiction of the Village of Sloatsburg Board of Trustees under zoning provides broader authority to review and provide litigation for the anticipated impacts from this proposal.
The third criterion relates to the capacity of an agency to provide for a thorough environmental assessment. Given that the first and second criteria have indicated a preference for the Village of Sloatsburg Board of Trustees consideration of the third criterion is not critical. Both parties to this dispute possess the necessary staff or the ability to obtain the assistance of consultants to undertake an adequate environmental review for the proposed action.
I conclude, based on the facts presented, that the Village of Sloatsburg Board of Trustees should be lead agency for the conduct of the environmental review of the application by K. Hovnanian Acquisition, Inc. to construct the Highland Park Condominium project due to the local nature of the impacts and the broad scope of jurisdiction afforded to the Village Board under its zoning authority.. This project, which extends beyond the political boundaries of either municipality and will potentially impact the Ramapo River which is a designated recreational river under the Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers System Act, requires that all the involved agencies work in close cooperation. The Village of Sloatsburg Board of Trustees, as lead agency, is responsible for seeing that the environmental record that is developed must be adequate to support all involved agency decision making. This includes not only the disputing agencies but also the Village of Sloatsburg Planning Board, the New York State Departments of Environmental Conservation and Transportation and the Rockland County Department of Health. All of these agencies must actively participate in the environmental review so that the record developed by the Village of Sloatsburg Board of Trustees will adequately satisfy their needs when an applicant seeks the necessary approval(s). In order for this to occur, the Village of Sloatsburg Board of Trustees must consider the "whole action," including the construction of the proposed wastewater treatment plant and the potential for impact to the Ramapo River aquifer.
This decision in no way limits the jurisdiction or responsibility of the Town of Ramapo. The applicant must apply for and obtain all required approvals from the Town of Ramapo prior to commencing the action. I urge the Town of Ramapo to actively participate in the environmental review so that the record developed by the Village of Sloatsburg Board of Trustees will adequately satisfy their needs when the applicant seeks the necessary approval(s) from the Town.
Gavin J. Donohue, Executive Deputy Commissioner
Albany, New York
- Samuel Abate, Mayor, Village of Sloatsburg
Michael Zarin, Zarin & Steinmetz, Special Counsel for the Village of Sloatsburg
Herbert Reisman, Supervisor, Town of Ramapo
Alan Simon, Attorney, Town of Ramapo
Daniel Ruzow, Whiteman, Osterman & Hanna, Attorney for K. Hovnanian Acquisitions, Inc.
Robert Dennison, Region 8 NYS DOT
Marvin Thalenberg, Rockland County Department of Health
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation:
- Marc Moran, Regional Director, DEC Region 3
Margaret Duke, Regional Permit Administrator, DEC Region 3