Town of Saugerties v. DEC
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: Riveredge Estates Development, Town of Saugerties, Ulster County, New York
This decision to designate the Town Board of the Town of Saugerties as lead agency is made pursuant to 6 NYCRR Part 617. My decision is based on the fact that the project impacts are primarily of local significance and can best be reviewed by an agency familiar with these local issues.
The proposed action is the construction of a 460-unit residential development off NYS Route 32 in the Hamlet of Glasco, Town of Saugerties. The first phase, which is anticipated to take three years to complete, will involve the construction of 360 condominium units in clusters of 60, covering about 60 acres of the overall 85-acre site. The 550 feet of Hudson River waterfront, which are part of the overall site, are not involved in this initial development but may be impacted by phase two. No zoning regulations exist in the Town of Saugerties, but the Town Board has approval over the proposed extension of the Glasco Water District which will be required to serve the project.
In a letter of January 4, 1988, L. John Salzmann, attorney for Riverview Townhouse Associates, advised Commissioner Jorling of the potential for a lead agency dispute between the Town of Saugerties and Region 3 of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Subsequent correspondence between this office and the Town and Region 3 confirms that both agencies desire lead agency role for the conduct of the environmental review of the proposed action under the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) program.
The Town of Saugerties and DEC Region 3 both have had an opportunity to present their arguments for each agency's assumption of the lead agency role for the Riveredge Estates Development. These arguments address the criteria from 6 NYCRR paragraph 617.6(e)(5) which I must consider in resolving lead agency disputes. These criteria, in order of importance, are: (1) whether the anticipated impacts are primarily of local, regional or statewide significance; (2) which agency has the broadest governmental powers for investigation into potential impacts; and (3) which agency has the greatest capability of providing the most thorough environmental assessment of the proposed action.
The first criterion for determination of lead agency is the location and extent of potential impacts from the proposed project. DEC Region 3 argues that the proximity of the project to the Hudson River and related visual impacts, its size and potential for cumulative impacts with other large projects and the existence on the site of the ruins of a brickyard which is listed as eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places are matters of regional concern. These are significant impacts which need to be addressed. There are, however, other significant impacts associated with the proposed development which are more local in nature. The Town has identified the capacities of the existing water supply system and sewage treatment plant, and traffic and sanitary landfill capacity as major issues of concern. In addition, the Town has recognized community growth and the need for services as impacts to consider. While there are undeniably some regional implications for the Riveredge Estate Development which must be dealt with, the project primarily will have more significant local impacts and an agency at the local level is in a better position to address these issues.
The second criterion for consideration is which agency has the broadest governmental powers for investigation into the potential impacts of this development. Both the Town and DEC Region 3 will have to give approvals with respect to the extension of the Glasco Water District. DEC also may have subsequent involvement in authorizing changes to the present treatment plant which will be utilized by the development, to future solid waste disposal methods required to continue to serve the development and to future shoreline disturbances which might be proposed as part of a later phase of the development. All DEC decisions for this project are also subject to coastal consistency determinations by the New York Department of State. The Town Board will have to make fundamental decisions regarding the impacts of this development upon the Town of Saugerties at the time of its initial approval. Both the Town and DEC have broad governmental powers to investigate the impacts of this project.
The third criterion is which agency has the greatest capability for providing the most thorough environmental analysis of the proposed action. The staff of the DEC Region 3 office have considerable experience and expertise in the review of a wide array of environmental issues which come before them. The Town Board has little experience with the EIS process. However, the Town Board has retained a consultant to advise them on this project. The Board has demonstrated through its initial environmental assessments of the project that it is aware of the major impacts of this large development and a need to examine it through an environmental impact statement. There would appear to be adequate review capability available to the Town, and the Town's more intimate knowledge of local specifics is also beneficial.
Based on a careful consideration of all facts presented, I find that the Saugerties Town Board is the agency best suited to serve as lead in the analysis of the environmental impacts of the development of the proposed Riveredge Estates condominium project in the Hamlet of Glasco, Town of Saugerties. The Town is encouraged to conduct a well-coordinated environmental review process that includes scoping of concerns and issues prior to the preparation of the draft environmental impact statement and that may include public scoping. DEC Region 3 and all other involved agencies will be given full opportunity to receive information necessary to make their own decisions on those aspects of the project which are under their jurisdiction as well as their SEQR findings. In particular, the DEC Region 3 staff should, at their earliest opportunity, make known to the Town and its consultants their specific concerns for this project and any recommendations for alternatives and mitigation which can be followed to minimize identified environmental impacts. Region 3 may also be able to provide some degree of technical support to the Town, in particular on the sewer, water and solid waste issues.
This decision does not in any manner limit or minimize the responsibility of all involved agencies to review the entire action and to assist the Saugerties Town Board in completion of the environmental review process.
Langdon Marsh for Thomas C. Jorling Commissioner
Albany, New York
Distribution of Copies:
- G. Schovel, Supervisor, Town of Saugerties
Chairman, Planning Board, Town of Saugerties
T. Murphy, Esq., Attorney, Town of Saugerties
R. Manna, Regional Permit Administrator, DEC Region 3
D. Palen, Ulster County Health Department
H. Albertelli, DOT Region 8, Poughkeepsie
L.J. Salzman, Esq., R.R.G. & S.
Riverview Townhouse Associates
A.T. Rossi, E.C. & A.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation:
- L. Marsh
J. Jensen/F. Howell