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Lead Agency Dispute: Town of Queensbury v. City of Glens Falls

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

PROJECT: Annexation of 90.4 acres known as Cole's Woods from the Town of Queensbury to the City of Glens Falls


  • Town of Queensbury Town Board
    City of Glens Falls Common Council

This decision to designate the City of Glens Falls as the lead agency for environmental review under the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process is made pursuant to Article 8 of the Environmental Conservation Law and its implementing regulations at 6 NYCRR Part 617.

The subject of this dispute is the proposed annexation of 90.4 acres of land into the City of Glens Falls. The property proposed for annexation is primarily owned by the City of Glens Falls. Additional minor owners are the Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation and the Town of Queensbury. The proposed site is currently zoned Parkland Recreation (PR) by the Town of Queensbury and density is currently limited to one principal structure for every forty-two acres. The City of Glens Falls has indicated that, if annexed, they would enact a zoning classification to limit density to one principal structure for every forty-five acres and that the site would continue to be used for recreational use and public water system management.

The determination of public interest which must be made by the Town and the City under the General Municipal Law (GML), prior to granting or denying an annexation petition, is a discretionary approval to which SEQR must be applied. Typically, an annexation 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 City, which is the owner of the major portion of the parcel subject to annexation, has no plans to further develop it, and, therefore, no land use change is proposed. In contrast to the decision-making process found in the GML regarding annexation and possible Appellate Court review, the motivation of the agencies involved in the annexation and the merits of their argument regarding the serving of the public interest are not a part of this decision.

The three criteria I must use to resolve this dispute, listed in 6 NYCRR 617.6(b)(5)(v) in order of importance, are: (1) whether the anticipated impacts are primarily of statewide, regional or local significance; (2) which agency has the broadest governmental powers for investigating potential impacts; and (3) which agency has the greatest ability to provide a thorough environmental assessment of the proposed action.

The first criterion regarding whether the potential impacts from the proposed annexation are local, regional or statewide favors neither the Town nor the City. The predominantly City-owned property known as Cole's Woods contains recreational trails and water towers maintained by the City. Although almost completely surrounded by the Town, the site adjoins Crandall Park, which is also owned by and located in the City. There is a state-designated freshwater wetland (GF-25) located along a portion of Halfway Brook which flows through the site. The state-designated wetland and associated brook create a regional interest in the parcel since any impacts to these resources would potentially impact both municipalities. However, both involved agencies are local and both are equally responsible for protecting the wetland and brook. These resources would not be affected by the proposed annexation.

Portions of the property are currently subject to deed restrictions on development. The remainder of the property is currently protected from development under the Town of Queensbury land use controls. The City does not plan to develop the parcel. Further, if the annexation petition is successful, the City would enact a zoning classification to restrict uses of the land to forest management, recreation, education and maintenance of the infrastructure of the public water supply. Thus, potential impacts from the annexation, if any, would be local in nature and would equally affect both the Town and the City. So, neither agency is favored under this criterion.

The second criterion is the breadth of jurisdiction. Both the Town and the City have the authority to approve or to deny the annexation petition and to investigate any impacts from the proposed action. However, in addition to approving the annexation, the City, as the predominant owner of the parcel, is the agency principally responsible for carrying out any actions affecting the site and for maintaining that portion of its water supply infrastructure that is located on the property (ECL Section 8- 0111(6) and 6 NYCRR 617.2(u)]. Under this criterion the City is favored.

The third and last criterion is which agency has the greatest ability to provide the most thorough environmental assessment of the action. The Town maintains a staff that could carry out the requisite environmental review. The City has the ability to retain environmental consultants who could perform the review. Both agencies have the ability to conduct an environmental assessment pursuant to SEQR. Neither agency is favored under this criterion..After considering the relevant criteria under 6 NYCRR 617.6(b)(5)(v), I conclude that the City must be designated lead agency. Under the second criterion, the City not only has jurisdiction to approve or deny the annexation petition but also is the agency with primary responsibility for carrying out actions affecting the site, including maintenance of its municipal water system infrastructure.


Dated: 4/14/97
John P. Cahill
Albany, New York

Distribution of Copies:

  • Town of Queensbury
    City of Glens Falls

Disputing Agencies:

  • Town of Queensbury Town Board
    City of Glens Falls Common Council

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation:

  • John P. Cahill
    Kathleen Martens
    Sandra Garlick
    Lenore Kuwik

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