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Gallatin Town Board v. Planning Board v. Columbia County Health Department v. Public Works 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: Taconic Country Club Estates Planned Unit Development, Town of Gallatin, Columbia County, by Taconic Realty Partners

DISPUTING AGENCIES:

  • Gallatin Town Board
  • Gallatin Town Planning Board
  • Columbia County Health Department
  • Columbia County Department of Public Works
  • New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

This decision to designate the Planning Board of the Town of Gallatin as the 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 (ECL) and 6 NYCRR Part 617, the statewide regulations governing SEQR. My reasons are that the Town of Gallatin Planning Board has the broadest governmental powers for investigation of the potential impacts of the proposed development and that the major aspects of these potential impacts are of greater local concern than of state or regional concern.

This lead agency dispute involves a proposed Planned Unit Development (PUD) of 405 acres in the Town of Gallatin, Columbia County by Taconic Realty Partners. The development would immediately abut the south boundary of Lake Taghkanic State Park. The PUD would include 230 residential units on 75 acres surrounding a 21-acre Class II Designated Freshwater Wetland known as Pond Lily Pond. Trails, a swimming area and a boathouse are proposed for use of residents of the development. Much of the surface water from the development would flow into Lake Taghkanic which lies wholly within the State Park. A community water supply and a wastewater treatment system to be operated through a homeowners association would be part of the proposed project. The Town population (1,400) would be increased 35 to 50% by this single development.

In accord with the Town's zoning ordinance adopted in 1982, approval of a change from the present 2-acre and 5-acre per lot zoning to a PUD will be required from the Town Board. Also, for a PUD, the Town Board must give final site plan approval before development may begin. Neither decision of the Town Board can be made until after receipt of recommendations from the Town Planning Board. In addition, because the project involves the subdivision of much of the proposed residential area into individual lots, subdivision plat approval will be required from the Planning Board. The Town has proposed that the Planning Board serve as lead agency for conduct of the SEQR process.

DEC Region 4 is also an involved agency because approvals will be required for the proposed public water supply and for the discharges associated with the community wastewater treatment system. In addition, development around Pond Lily Pond will require a Freshwater Wetland permit and possibly a permit for excavation and fill in navigable waters under Article 15 of the ECL. DEC Region 4 has indicated in response to a lead agency solicitation by the Town Planning Board that, because of state and regional concerns, DEC Region 4 would prefer to assume lead agency responsibilities.

In support of its position, DEC Region 4 staff has indicated that factors to be considered, among others are: impacts upon quantity and quality of water supply to existing users, including the state park; potential for non-point source pollution of surface water due to sedimentation, stormwater runoff and use of lawn pesticides; management of sewage wastewater and solid wastes; loss of wetlands, woodlands and other wildlife habitat; impacts of development on use of the state park; and impacts upon local infrastructure such as roads, schools and fire protection. Correspondence from the Gallatin Planning Board, in support of its designation as lead agency, acknowledges these same concerns, noting that many are of substantive local concern as well as regional. The Town also notes potential impacts to services such as fire and police protection and on schools and traffic and water supply are significant local concerns. In addition, the Town points out that the size and nature of the project would "forever change the character of the Town."

The nature and extent of overall development for this part of Columbia County, which will be significantly influenced by the decisions of the Town of Gallatin on the Taconic Country Club Estates development, is the paramount concern. The introduction of 230 year-round residential dwelling units in many larger communities would not be of any major consequence. In Gallatin, however, the potential increase of 35 to 50% in population and the development's subsequent influence on further growth is profoundly significant.

In resolving a dispute about lead agency, I am guided by the three criteria listed in order of importance in 6 NYCRR Section 617.6(e)(5). The first of these criteria is whether the anticipated impacts are primarily of local, regional or statewide significance. As noted above, there is clear evidence of regional and state interest in potential impacts, particularly relating to Taghkanic State Park. However, even more basic impacts related to the growth and destiny of the Town of Gallatin are at issue. The issues of density, timing, type, design and layout of development are primarily local land use issues.

The second criterion for consideration in resolving a lead agency dispute is which agency has the broadest powers for investigation of the potential impacts. The Gallatin Planning Board must consider appropriate conditions which should be applied to its subdivision plat approvals for this project, as well as the recommendations it must make to the Town Board regarding rezoning and site plan approval. Through its zoning, subdivision plat and site plan approval processes, the Town has the power to choose what scope, design and amount of residential development can occur over what period of time and to assess local needs in relation to that development. While DEC's approvals are of considerable importance to the creation of an environmentally sound development, they are secondary to the Town's power to consider overall development policies for the area. DEC staff has a responsibility to express its concerns and to participate as an involved agency in the process.

The third criterion in resolving a lead agency dispute is which agency has the greatest capability to provide a thorough environmental assessment of the proposed action. The Town intends to involve consultants and to rely on expertise within other involved and interested agencies, including DEC Region 4 which has adequate staff resources to address the impacts associated with its areas of jurisdiction. Also, the Town Planning Board has indicated an intent to require an EIS and to scope its content with other agencies and interested parties.

I therefore conclude, based on all the facts presented, that the Town of Gallatin Planning Board best serves the role of lead agency for conduct of review under SEQR for the proposed Taconic Country Club Estates Planned Unit Development because the Planning Board has the broadest governmental powers for investigating the potential impacts of the development which, in addition to certain state or regional aspects, will have major impacts upon local development. The Town has expressed a strong willingness to involve sufficient expertise in the conduct of its review and to coordinate such review with all other involved agencies.

This decision does not in any manner limit or minimize the responsibility of all other involved agencies to review this entire proposed action and to assist the Town of Gallatin Planning Board in completion of the environmental review process.

/s/
Thomas C. Jorling Commissioner
Dated: January 27, 1989
Albany, New York

Distribution of Copies:

  • Laurence Brody, Chairman, Gallatin Planning Board
    Kenneth Jones, Supervisor, 'Town of Gallatin
    Warren Replansky, Esq., Gallatin Planning Board Atty.
    Anthony Grassi, Superintendent, Town of Gallatin Highway Dept.
    Dale Rowe, Environ. Health Director, Columbia Co. Health Dept.
    Richard Brady, Commissioner, Columbia Co. DPW
    Roland Vosburgh, Director, Columbia Co. Planning Dept.
    William Clarke, Regional Permit Administrator, DEC Reg. 4
    John Kennedy, Regional Director, NYS OPR & HP
    Ivan Vamos, Deputy Commissioner, NYS OPR & HP
    Gilbert Faustel, P.E., New York Dept. of Health
    William Spampinato, Esq.
    Julian Babitz, Taconic Realty Partners
    David Robinson, Project Engineer, Clough, Harbor and Assoc.
    David Crawford, Assoc. Engineer, Morris Associates

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation:

  • T. Jorling
    L. Marsh
    M. Gerstman (Legal Affairs)
    G. Bowers (Legal Affairs)
    J. Jensen/F. Howell (DRA)
    J. Magee (DEC Reg. 4)
    A. Moorcock (DEC Reg. 4)
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