Lead Agency Dispute: Rensselaer Co IDA v. North Greenbush Town Board v. Planning Board
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Commissioner's Determination of Lead Agency
under Article 8 of the
Environmental Conservation Law
PROJECT: Development of Greenbush Commerce Park Project in Towns of East Greenbush and North Greenbush, Rensselaer County, NY
This decision to designate the Rensselaer County Industrial Development Agency (RCIDA) as lead agency is made pursuant to 6NYCRR Part 617. My decision is based on the fact that the project impacts involve areas within two different towns and are matters of regional as well as local significance which can best be reviewed by an agency with a broader overall jurisdiction.
The proposed action is the development of a light industrial park of approximately 45 acres, to be known as the Greenbush Commerce Park, two thirds of which lies within the Town of North Greenbush. The remaining portion, in the Town of East Greenbush, fronts on the north side of New York Route 43 about 2,500 feet west of its junction with U.S. Route 4 and, because of its accessibility, is the portion of the project expected for initial development. Installation of roads and other infrastructure necessary to the future development of the North Greenbush portion of the Greenbush Commerce Park is also proposed. The RCIDA will be responsible for providing financial assistance to the proposed development and both towns exercise zoning and site plan authority with respect to the project.
On September 10, 1987, the RCIDA sent to other prospective involved agencies a letter expressing its intent to serve as lead agency for this proposed action and requesting concurrence. All agencies concurred or gave no indication of objection except the Town Board and Planning Board of the Town of North Greenbush.
In a letter dated September 18, 1987 to Glen King of the Rensselaer County Bureau of Planning, which serves the RCIDA, Robert Duffy, Chairman of the Town of North Greenbush Planning Board, stated that his Board, in consultation with the Town Supervisor, would not concur with the request of the county to be designated as lead agency for the proposed light industrial park. The letter notes that since "...rezoning is strictly a Town decision, the preparation of any impact statement relating to development in the Town is most appropriately handled by a Town and not an outside agency."
Both the Town of North Greenbush and the RCIDA have had an opportunity to present their arguments for each agency's assumption of the lead agency role for the Greenbush Commerce Park Project. These arguments addressed the criteria from 6NYCRR paragraph 617.(e)(5) which I must consider in resolving lead agency disputes. These criteria, in order of importance, are: (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 of providing the most thorough environmental assessment of the proposed action.
The first criterion for determination of lead agency is the location and extent of potential impacts from the proposed project. While the Greenbush Commerce Park Project may have significant impacts upon both the Town of East Greenbush and the Town of North Greenbush, this project has even broader county and regional concerns related to transportation needs, impacts upon air and water resources, and even loss of agricultural and open space resources. An agency above local government level such as the RCIDA is in a better position to address these issues.
The second criterion for consideration under 6NYCRR paragraph 617.6(e)(5) is which agency has the broadest governmental powers for investigation into the potential impacts of this develop- ment. Both the Town of East Greenbush and the Town of North Greenbush have authority to make decisions within their own geographic areas and to examine the impacts therein. The RCIDA has authority to act at a broader investigative level which will encompass the concerns of both towns.
The third criterion is which agency has the greatest capability for providing the most thorough environmental analysis of the proposed action. The Town of North Greenbush has cited credentials of its board members and their previous experience in preparation of impact statements. Such activity, however, would have to be carried out on a part time basis, probably with consultants. The RCIDA has the staff of the Rensselaer County Bureau of Planning available to it on a full time basis and would be able to produce or oversee the production of any impact statement required for the Greenbush Commerce Park Project.
Based on a careful consideration of all facts presented, I find that the Rensselaer County Industrial Development Authority is the agency best suited to serve as lead in the assessment of the environmental impacts of the development of the Greenbush Commerce Park in the Towns of East Greenbush and North Greenbush. This recognizes the regional aspects of this proposed action and the fact that the RCIDA has sufficient staff and resources to produce an environmental impact statement, if needed.
The circumstances surrounding this project; i.e., its location in two towns, raise two basic concepts about the conduct of the SEQR process. The first relates to segmented review and the second to coordination of review. Subdivision 617.3(k) of SEQR regulations clearly states that the consideration of only a part or segment of an action is contrary to the intent of SEQR. The most recent amendment of Part 617 clarifies and reaffirms this principle. It would be contrary to this "whole action" review concept to examine the proposed development of the Greenbush Commerce Park in segments, notwithstanding the fact that several separate involved agency decisions will be required to complete the project. No matter which involved agency is established as the lead agency, it must examine the impacts associated with the entire proposed action including those of concern to other involved agencies.
This leads to the concept of coordinated review. There is an obligation by a lead agency to seek out the concerns of other involved agencies. These concerns must then be addressed by the lead agency in making a determination of significance for a proposed project and in preparing any environmental impact statement which may follow. All involved agencies have a responsibility under Subdivision 617.3(i) to respond to the lead agency with their comments and concerns about a project.
The staff and consultants to the RCIDA, in assuming the lead agency role, have a responsibility to conduct their review under the SEQR process in a comprehensive fashion which takes into account the full concerns of the local municipalities affected by this proposed development action. Any impact statement prepared for this project should incorporate the concerns and comments of all involved agencies, covering such local potential impacts as traffic generation and the conversion of agriculturally zoned land into much more intensive use.
This decision 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 Rensselaer County Industrial Development Agency as lead agency in completion of the environmental review process. If a draft environmental impact statement is required, all involved agencies should actively participate in scoping and review of the document and should make their own independent findings which must be supported by the record when a final environmental impact statement is produced
Thomas C. Jorling Commissioner
Dated: Dec. 31, 1987
Albany, New York
Distribution of Copies:
- E. B. Smith, Chairman, RCIDA
Greenbush Commerce Park, Inc. c/o RCIDA
R. Fragomeni, Supervisor, Town of N. Greenbush
R. Duffy, Chairman, N. Greenbush Planning Board
A. Germano, Chairman, N. Greenbush ZBA
M. Van Voris, Supervisor, Town of E. Greenbush
G. Raneri, Chairman, E. Greenbush Planning Board
T. Anderson, Chairman, E. Greenbush ZBA
R. W. Carlson, Assistant Director, NYS DOT, Region One
K. Van Praag, Public Health Director, Rensselaer County Health Dept.
G. G. King, Deputy Director, Rensselaer County Bureau of B.R. & P.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation:
- L. Marsh
J. Jensen/F. Howell