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Lead Agency Dispute: City of Plattsburgh v. Town of Plattsburgh

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Commissioner's Determination of Lead Agency
under Article 8 of the
Environmental Conservation Law

PROJECT: Annexation of 96.5 acres from the Town of Plattsburgh to the City of Plattsburgh

INVOLVED AGENCIES: City of Plattsburgh Common Council
Town of Plattsburgh Town Board

This decision to designate the City of Plattsburgh Common Council as lead agency f or 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 potential impacts from annexation and future development of the parcel will have a greater effect on contiguous lands within the City of Plattsburgh than the Town of Plattsburgh.

The subject of this dispute is the proposed annexation of 96.5 acres of land from the Town of Plattsburgh by the City of Plattsburgh. The entire parcel is physically separated from other lands in the Town of Plattsburgh by Interstate 87. The site is presently undeveloped with the exception of a 2.3 acre parcel which contains an electrical substation owned by the City of Plattsburgh municipal lighting department. The Falcon Seaboard Corporation proposes to construct a 238 mw cogeneration facility on 6.4 acres of the site.

The determination of public interest pursuant to General Municipal Law (GML) , which must be made by a municipality prior to granting or denying an annexation petition, is a discretionary approval involving the weighing and balancing of social, economic and environmental factors. Annexation typically involves a change in land use or a desire for public services which may be more readily available from one municipality than another. In this case the impacts from annexation are more economic than environmental.

In contrast to the decisionmaking process found in GML regarding annexation and possible Appellate Court review, the motivation of the agencies involved in the annexation and the merits of their arguments regarding the serving of the public interest are not a part of this decision. My decision must be based on 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 proposed site is located within the Town of Plattsburgh and is zoned for industrial use. The City of Plattsburgh has indicated that if annexed, the site would continue to be used for industrial purposes. Typical impacts from industrial types of uses are: traffic, noise, air emissions, water emissions and visual. Such impacts are primarily local in nature and would normally affect both agencies to a similar degree. However, given the physical separation of this parcel from other lands in the Town of Plattsburgh by Interstate 87 it is apparent that any industrial use of the site would impact the surrounding lands in the City of Plattsburgh to a much greater degree than lands in the Town of Plattsburgh. Although short term construction impacts on site would have an impact on the Town should the parcel remain within its boundaries, the long term impacts from operations of an industrial nature would typically involve more off-site impacts that would affect the City, such as air emissions from the prevailing westerly winds. In addition, the potential that most community services to support industrial use at the site would be provided by the City of Plattsburgh is a second factor indicating that the impacts will not be borne equally.

The second and third criteria regarding the breadth of jurisdiction and the ability of the agencies to provide a thorough environmental assessment do not require in-depth evaluation. Both agencies have the authority to approve/deny the annexation petition, the land use authority to regulate subsequent development on the site and 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 City of Plattsburgh best serves the function of lead agency for conduct of the environmental review for the proposed annexation of 96.5 acres in the Town of Plattsburgh by the City of Plattsburgh due to the fact that the impacts from the annexation and potential future development of the parcel will have a greater affect on the surrounding land uses in the City of Plattsburgh.

This decision does not in any way change or limit the jurisdiction of any of the involved agencies or minimize their responsibilities under the provisions of General Municipal Law regarding the annexation. The City of Plattsburgh has indicated that an environmental impact statement (EIS) will be prepared to address the impacts from annexation. This document should not duplicate the environmental review being done for the Falcon Seaboard proposal for which the Department of Environmental Conservation is the lead agency, but should address the impacts from potential development consistent with the existing zoning in a generic fashion and incorporate by reference the information that is contained in the EIS prepared for the Falcon Seaboard proposal.

/s/
Thomas C. Jorling
Dated: January 15, 1992
Albany, New York

Distribution of Copies:

  • C. Rabideau, Jr., Mayor, City of Plattsburgh
    A. LeFevre, Supervisor, Town of Plattsburgh
    J. Shea, Esq., Attorney for the Town of Plattsburgh

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation:

  • Commissioner Jorling
    L. Marsh
    M. Gerstman
    T. Monroe
    G. Kamaras
    J. Stallmer
    D. Wild

Additional Copies - Involved/ Interested Agencies:


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