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Town of Monroe v. Village of Harriman

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: Proposed Village View Estates Subdivision by Joseph Dierna, Sr, within Town of Monroe and Village of Harriman, Orange County, NY

This decision, to designate the Town of Monroe Planning Board as lead agency, is made pursuant to 6NYCRR Part 617, Subdivision 617.6(e) of the regulations implementing the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) and under the criteria for selection of lead agency set forth in paragraph 617.6(e)(5)of those regulations. My decision is based on the fact that the impacts anticipated from the proposed action are primarily of a local nature and may be greatest within the Town of Monroe. The Town Planning Board has, through its regular subdivision review process, sufficient capability to provide a thorough environmental assessment of the entire action, including that portion within the Village of Harriman.

My decision to designate the Town of Monroe as lead agency in no way diminishes the responsibility of the Village of Harriman to make its own findings and decisions regarding those portions of this proposed action which are within its jurisdiction. In addition the Village, as an involved agency, has a major responsibility to contribute substantive input to the overall review of this project as part of the SEQR process, as required in Subdivision 617.3(I).

The proposed action is the development, by Joseph Dierna, Sr, of a 31-lot residential subdivision to be known as Village View Estates, consisting of an 18.3-acre parcel of which 8.4 acres will be within the Village of Harriman and the remainder within the Town of Monroe. According to a sketch plan dated 5/28/86 and revised 6/15/86, thirteen lots at the middle of the development would be wholly within the Village. Nine lots in an inner portion and four lots at the entry would be wholly within the Town. The remaining five lots would have frontage in the Village but about 25% to 40% of their area would lie in the town.*

Access to the proposed development would be from town roads; no direct connections appear possible to village streets. Water supply to village lots would be from the village public water supply system. Town lots would be served by wells if village water service is not obtainable. All lots eventually would be sewered, but a moratorium prohibits provision of such service until the capacity of the district sewage treatment plant has been increased or otherwise shown to be sufficient..On July 7, 1987, I received a letter by certified mail, dated July 2, addressed to Commissioner Henry Williams, my predecessor, from Samuel H. Cohen, Chairman of the Town of Monroe Planning Board, requesting determination of a lead agency for review of the Village View Estates project. The letter and its attachments provide information intended to support the Town's selection as lead agency.

On July 20, also by certified mail, a letter dated July 14 was received from Carl Keener, Chairman of the Village of Harriman Planning Board, responding to some of the points raised in Chairman Cohen's letter. On July 29, Jerome Jensen of my staff received further correspondence dated July 24 from Chairman Cohen commenting upon Chairman Keener's letter. On August 14, 1987, in response to a DEC information request of July14, Mr. Jensen received a letter dated August 11 from Chairman Keener. Such letter presented reasons to support the selection of the Village as lead agency.

Before setting forth the rationale for my selection of lead agency, it is important to understand the extent of the action being considered. One must consider the whole action, including all of its phases and components. Subdivision 617.3(k) of Part 617 regulations implementing SEQR makes clear that it is generally inappropriate to segment reviews under SEQR into portions dealing with separate but closely related actions of one or more involved agencies.

At present, an application for subdivision approval is before the Village Planning Board for only its portion of Village View Estates. No application has formally been submitted to the Town to cover its portion of this development, although there have been some informal discussions with the developer.

Due to the somewhat unusual village/town boundary configuration within this proposed subdivision, approvals by either community will be meaningless without approvals by the other. With the exception of three or four lots at the entry of the subdivision, the Town portion of development cannot be built without there first being some construction within the Village. Similarly, the mid-portion of the tract, which lies in the Village, cannot be built without passing through the entry portion which is within the Town.

In Chairman Keener's letter of August 11 to Mr. Jensen, point 2 incorrectly states that the "...Village of Harriman Planning Board is the designated lead agency for that portion of the subdivision contained within the Village of Harriman." Because a dispute has been raised, no lead agency exists until I have acted to designate one. Further, because it is contrary to the "whole action" provisions of SEQR to establish a lead agency for a portion of a project, the Village Planning Board cannot be considered lead for that part of the development within the Village. The board is an involved agency with respect to this project, as is the Town of Harriman Planning Board. From among involved agencies, a lead agency must be chosen to administer the SEQR process for the whole action.

*Subsequent correspondence from the Village indicates that there have been further revisions to the subdivision plan resulting in fourteen lots in the village, thirteen in the town and four between town and village; however, my staff has not been provided with a map of such modifications..In accord with paragraph 617.6(e)(5), in resolving lead agency disputes, I must consider the following criteria, in order of importance: (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 for providing the most thorough environmental assessment of the proposed action.

Under the first criterion, all material presented for DEC's consideration shows that the relevant impacts of this proposed development relate to traffic circulation, provision of water and other services, and the handling of storm drainage. Such impacts are primarily local. Although there are concerns related to the capability of serving this development from an existing sewerage system run by Orange County, such impacts are still related primarily to local concerns. No countywide, regional or statewide impacts appear to be at issue.

Most of the impacts are common to, and should be addressed by, both municipalities. Such impacts include sufficiency of sewer and water facilities, internal storm drainage, street widths and grades, and internal traffic circulation. However, there are two matters which appear to be of much more concern to the Town than the Village:

  • (1) external traffic impacts, because all project traffic must ultimately be accommo- dated by the town road system, and;
  • (2) external drainage, because the topography of the development will place most storm runoff into drainage systems within and under the jurisdiction of the Town.

Therefore, I find that the anticipated impacts will occur to a greater degree in the Town of Monroe.

The second criterion for consideration is which agency has the broadest jurisdiction to investigate the potential impacts associated with this project. In this instance, both agencies will address the project broadly through subdivision approval procedures. I find that the levels of jurisdiction for environmental review are comparable. Also, the extent of development is similar for both municipalities.

The third consideration in my designation of lead agency is the capability of the designated agency to provide a thorough environmental assessment. The Village of Harriman has cited its past experience as an involved agency in the preparation of an impact statement for the ICCA project in conjunction with the Town of Woodbury, which was lead agency. The Town of Monroe has noted its own experience in project review and the availability of full time staff for such work. Both the Town and Village Planning Boards point out that they have access to consultants to provide back-up technical advice in support of their assumption of the lead role in conducting a review under SEQR. I must concur with both municipalities. They each have equal means through use of municipal staffs and consultants, to thoroughly consider the environmental significant of this overall action..Therefore, my decision to designate the Town of Monroe as lead agency is based primarily on a determination under the first criteria. That is, the impacts are likely to be greater in the Town of Monroe.

The Town should carefully coordinate this review with the Village of Harriman and other involved agencies before making determination of significance under SEQR, so that all relevant impacts are reflected in such determination.

The comments by DEC central and regional staff after review of material presented so far suggest that there are a number of important matters which must be resolved before final approvals are given to this development by any agency. Paramount among these are the uncertainty of county operated sewer service due to the present moratorium and the ability of the village water system to serve the entire development. In addition, there may be issues related to storm drainage and the adaptation of existing ponds for storm water retention. Such matters deserve full investigation, including consideration of alternatives if inadequacies are not resolvable.

This lead agency designation does not in any manner limit or minimize the responsibility of all involved agencies to review the entire action. Each involved agency has the responsibility to assist the Town of Monroe Planning Board in the completion of the environmental review process. If a draft environmental impact statement is required, all agencies should actively participate in the scoping and review of the document. At the completion of a final environmental impact statement, each involved agency must make their own findings before acting on their portion of the overall action.

Thomas C. Jorling Commissioner
Dated: Sept. 1, 1987
Albany, New York

Distribution of Copies:

  • S.H. Cohen, Chairman, Town of Monroe Planning Board
    C. Keener, Chairman, Village of Harriman Planning Board
    Town of Monroe Zoning Board of Appeals
    Village of Harriman Zoning Board of Appeals
    Town Board, Town of Monroe
    Village Board, Village of Harriman
    Orange Co. Health Dept.
    Orange Co. Planning Dept.
    Orange Co. Dept. of Public Works
    J. Dierna, Sr.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation:

  • L. Marsh
    J. Corr
    L. Concra
    M. Gerstman
    G. Bowers
    P. Keller
    R. Manna
    J. Jensen
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