Town Board of the Town of Huntington v. Town Board of the Town of Oyster Bay
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner's Determination of Lead Agency Under Article 8 of the Environmental Conservation Law
PROJECT: Application by Triangle Equities / Shore Estates at Woodbury to construct a total of 136 multi-family housing units on 18.6 acres of land at the southeast corner of Jericho Turnpike (NYS Rte 25) and Plainview Road in the Towns of Huntington (Suffolk County) and Oyster Bay (Nassau County).
DISPUTING AGENCIES: Town Board of the Town of Huntington and Town Board of the Town of Oyster Bay.
This decision to designate the Town Board of the Town of Huntington (Huntington Town Board) as lead agency for the conduct of the environmental review under the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process for the above project is made pursuant to Article 8 of the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) and Title 6 of the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations (6 NYCRR) Part 617. This decision is based on my finding that the Huntington Town Board has the broadest governmental powers for the investigation of impacts of the proposed action over the majority of the potentially affected property.
The proposed project is the application by Triangle Equities / Shore Estates at Woodbury to construct a total of 136 multi-family housing units on 18.6 acres of land for an age restricted (ages 55+) community at the southeast corner of Jericho Turnpike (NYS Rte 25) and Plainview Road. The project proposes to construct 109 units on 13.5 acres of land in the Town of Huntington (Suffolk County) and 27 units on 5.1 acres of land in the Town of Oyster Bay (Nassau County). Zoning changes are needed from both towns to allow this project to proceed. The parcel in Huntington is currently zoned R-40 Residence, one acre residential, and current zoning in the Town of Oyster Bay is described as R1-1A Single-Family Residence with a one-acre minimum. Within both towns, the project site is located in the Long Island Special Groundwater Protection Area (SGPA). The Long Island Regional Planning Board, as technical advisory agency for the SGPA Plan on Long Island, must provide comments on the zone change requests but has no jurisdiction of its own. In addition, the Town of Oyster Bay has an Aquifer Protection Overlay District (APO), adopted in 2004, which affords added protection to critical groundwater resources.
The disputing agencies are the Huntington Town Board and the Town of Oyster Bay. The dispute was received on February 9, 2007. Additional materials requested by DEC staff were received on March 2, 2007; March 9, 2007; March 22, 2007; and April 4, 2007. The Huntington Town Board has jurisdiction within its boundaries for the requested zoning change from R-40 Residential to R-RM Retirement Community (14.52 units per acre). The Town of Oyster Bay has jurisdiction for the requested zoning change within its boundaries from R1-1A to RMF-10 (10.89 units per acre). In addition, the requested zoning change within the bounds of Oyster Bay must be reviewed in consideration of that Town's APO, adopted in 2004. Both towns must also receive and consider comments on the requested zoning changes from the Long Island Regional Planning Board. No other jurisdictions were discussed by either agency, and no other agencies have joined the dispute.
In resolving a lead agency dispute, I am guided by the three criteria listed in order of importance in 6 NYCRR Paragraph 617.6(b)(5)(v). These are:
- 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);
- which agency has the broadest governmental powers for investigation of the impacts of the proposed action; and
- 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. Both the Huntington Town Board and the Town of Oyster Bay have identified impacts that include: character changes (one family residential to multi-family residences); traffic (density and pattern); and increased residential density over a protected aquifer. The Town of Oyster Bay also discussed potential cumulative impacts from two other pending projects, both for multi-family housing, in areas adjacent to the subject parcel - 80 units on 17 acres across Plainview Road from the project and 33 units on 5.4 acres across Jericho Turnpike from the proposed 80 unit project. In addition, the Town of Oyster Bay raised concerns for disposal of sanitary wastes and capacity questions for the receiving sewage system, which is also in Nassau County.
Density changes in residential neighborhoods, traffic and construction impacts are typically identified as local impacts. Aquifer protection and sewage disposal and capacity, on the other hand, are impacts with broader, more regional, implications. Therefore, the potential resource impact concerns are both regional and local in nature. Since both disputing agencies are local agencies, there is no distinction between them based on this criterion.
The second criterion is that of breadth of authority. Both agencies identify themselves as having similar municipal authority for zoning changes. The Town of Oyster Bay also has the APO, which Huntington does not have. Still, Huntington as well as Oyster Bay must adhere to designated standards for aquifer protection because of their location in the Long Island SGPA. Oyster Bay raised concerns over sanitary sewage disposal, but this issue is not under Town Of Oyster Bay jurisdiction. Given that the majority of the project site and direct impacts occur within the Town of Huntington, that town board's authority will be broader in terms of initiating, recommending or requiring changes that may be warranted for the overall project. Accordingly, this criterion points to the Town Board of Huntington.
The third criterion examines which agency has the greatest capability for providing the most thorough environmental assessment. The Town of Huntington identified staff familiar with zone change applications and expertise and training in urban planning or environmental sciences, as well as extensive experience in professional project review. The Town of Oyster Bay identified highly skilled in-house staff and support from consultants with experience in complex project analysis as well as intra-jurisdictional project reviews. Because both towns either have in-house staff, or could arrange for consultant services to assist in conducting an environmental review of this proposed development, I find that both agencies possess, or could obtain through consultants, the expertise to conduct a thorough environmental review. This being the case, I need not rely on the third criterion to reach my decision.
I, therefore, conclude that the Town Board of the Town of Huntington should be lead agency for the SEQR review of the proposal by Triangle Equities to create an age-restricted community consisting of 136 residential units on 18.6 acres of land, split between the two municipalities of Huntington and Oyster Bay.
This decision in no way limits the jurisdiction or responsibility of the Town of Oyster Bay, including zoning actions and APO decisions. The applicant must still apply for and obtain necessary Town approvals in both Huntington and Oyster Bay prior to commencing the action. Further, I encourage the Town of Oyster Bay to continue to identify all of its environmental concerns so that the Town of Huntington can consider them during all phases of its environmental review of the proposed project. In addition, the Town of Oyster Bay is further encouraged to use information from this SEQR review in assessing potential combined impacts of proposals now being considered for lands proximal to the present proposed project.
Alexander B. Grannis, Commissioner
Dated: May 17, 2007
Albany, New York
Distribution of Copies
Anthony J. Aloisio, AICP
Director of Planning and Environment
100 Main Street
Huntington, New York 11743-6991
Richard W. Lenz, P.E., Commissioner
Town of Oyster Bay
Department of Environmental Resources
150 Miller Place
Syosset, New York 11791-5699
Bram D. Weber
Weber Law Group, LLP, for the applicant
201 North Service Road, Suite 300
Melville, New York 11747
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation:
Peter A. Scully, Regional Director, DEC Region 1
John Pavasic, Regional Permit Administrator, DEC Region 1
Alison Crocker, Acting Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel
Betty Ann Hughes, Division of Environmental Permits, Chief - SEQR and Training