Town of Ramapo v. Town of Clarkstown
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: Construction of Skyridge II Residential Subdivision, Town of Ramapo, Rockland County
DISPUTING AGENCIES: Town of Ramapo Planning Board Town of Clarkstown Planning Board
This decision to designate the Town of Ramapo Planning Board as lead agency for the conduct of an environmental review under the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process is made pursuant to Article 8 of the Environmental Conservation Law and 6 NYCRR 617. I find that the Town of Ramapo Planning Board has the broadest jurisdiction over the proposed action and is the agency that has the necessary authority to mitigate any potential cumulative impacts from the proposed residential developments that adjoin the Skyridge II site.
The proposed project is the joint application of the Rock Apple Realty Co. and Eric Kurtzman to construct the Skyridge II subdivision which contains 17 building lots in the Town of Ramapo, Rockland County.
In resolving a dispute about lead agency, I am guided by the three criteria listed in order of importance in 6 NYCRR paragraph 617.6(e)(5). These are: (1) whether the anticipated impacts are primarily of local, regional or statewide significance; (2) which agency has the broadest powers for investigation of potential impacts; and (3) which agency has the greatest ability to provide a thorough environmental assessment of the proposed action.
The first criterion to evaluate is the location of the impacts. The proposed Skyridge II subdivision is located entirely within the Town of Ramapo, on the border with the Town of Clarkstown. The potential impacts identified by both parties include traffic, construction on lands where depth to groundwater is less than three feet and surface drainage. According to the map submitted by both parties, the proposed traffic access to the Skyridge II subdivision is through Buena Vista Road in the Town of Clarkstown.
The direct physical impacts from construction of Skyridge II will occur entirely in the Town of Ramapo. However, the impacts of traffic and storm water drainage will primarily affect the Town of Clarkstown. In addition, the Town of Clarkstown has identified the potential for cumulative traffic and drainage impacts from the adjacent Skyridge I, Cider Mill Manor and Buena Vista I subdivisions which are also located in the Town of Ramapo. These other developments are in various stages of the review/approval process. Both municipalities will be impacted to a similar degree by the proposed action and the adjacent proposed development.
The second criterion is the breadth of jurisdiction. The Town of Ramapo Planning Board is the agency responsible for issuing subdivision approval to the proposed Skyridge II subdivision. The Town of Clarkstown Planning Board's jurisdiction over the proposed action is the need for subdivision approval of three lots in the adjacent Cider Mill Manor which will provide road access to eight lots of the Skyridge II subdivision. Although both agencies' basis of jurisdiction is similar, the Town of Ramapo's jurisdiction over Skyridge II is much broader.
More important than the issue of jurisdiction for Skyridge II is the issue of jurisdiction regarding the assessment and mitigation of potential cumulative impacts. It has been identified that there is a potential for cumulative traffic and drainage impacts from the development of several subdivisions in the Town of Ramapo including Skyridge I, Cider Mill Manor and Buena Vista I. The lead agency chosen for the assessment of these potential cumulative impacts must also have the authority to impose substantive conditions to minimize or avoid the identified impacts. Even if the Town of Clarkstown Planning Board was designated as lead agency, its authority to mitigate would be very limited when compared to the Town of Ramapo.
The third criterion relates to the capacity of an agency to provide for a thorough environmental assessment. Both agencies possess the ability to conduct the environmental review, either through the use of present staff or by obtaining the services of a consultant.
I conclude, based on the facts presented, that the Town of Ramapo Planning Board best serves the function of lead agency for conduct of the environmental review for the proposed Skyridge II subdivision due to the broader nature of its jurisdiction as it relates to the examination of impacts and the ability to mitigate those impacts.
This decision does not in any way change or limit the jurisdiction of any of the involved agencies or minimize their responsibilities to review the whole action. The Town of Ramapo Planning Board must identify and assess all environmental impacts associated with the construction of the proposed Skyridge II subdivision and assess the potential for cumulative traffic and drainage impacts from the construction of Skyridge II and the other adjacent subdivisions on the Town of Clarkstown. The scope of this review would indicate that an environmental impact statement (EIS) is the preferred manner to address these concerns.
The Town of Clarkstown would be expected to assist the Town of Ramapo in the conduct of this environmental review by actively participating in the assessment and EIS review if one is prepared.
Thomas C. Jorling Commissioner
Albany, New York