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Lead Agency Dispute: Town of Richland v. DEC

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

PROJECT: Application by Richard Binotto to construct the Streamside Golf Course and Campground on a 70-acre site in the Town of Richland in Oswego County

DISPUTING AGENCIES: Town of Richland Planning Board and Region 7 Office, New York
State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)

This decision to designate the Town of Richland Planning Board as lead agency for the conduct of the environmental review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) is made pursuant to Article 8 of the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) and 6 NYCRR Part 617. This decision is based on my findings that the impacts from this project are primarily local in nature and that the Town of Richland Planning Board has broad jurisdiction under its site plan approval authority to address all facets of the project.

The proposed project is the application by Richard Binotto to construct a nine-hole golf course on 50 acres of a 70-acre site in the Town of Richland, Oswego County. The proposal also includes the construction of a 60-unit recreational vehicle campground, on-site water supply and sewage disposal facilities, hiking trails and tennis courts.

The Town of Richland Planning Board has the jurisdiction to issue or deny a special permit and site plan approval. The Region 7 Office of DEC has jurisdiction to issue or deny State Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems (SPDES) permits to allow the discharge of treated sanitary waste to groundwater and stormwater since the development would involve over 5 acres of disturbance.

In resolving a lead agency dispute, I am guided by the three criteria listed in order of importance in paragraph 6 NYCRR Part 617.6(b)(5)(v). These are: (1) 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); (2) which agency has the broadest governmental powers for investigation of the impacts of the proposed action; and (3) 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. DEC and the Town of Richland identified the following environmental concerns regarding the proposed development: potential for impact to a state designated wetland, adequacy of water supply and sewage disposal, traffic and compatibility of the proposed land use with surrounding land uses. All of the physical disturbance from construction and operation of the project will occur in the Town of Richland. The potential for impact to the state designated wetland has been assessed by DEC and according to the project plans, no disturbance within the wetland proper or its adjacent area will occur. An undisturbed woodland buffer will further reduce or eliminate potential for impact to this regional resource. I find that the impacts from this project are primarily local in nature and this criterion clearly favors the Town of Richland Planning Board as lead agency.

The next criterion, the breadth of jurisdiction, also favors the Town of Richland Planning Board as lead agency. The Town of Richland Planning Board must issue a special permit and a site plan approval in order for the facility to be constructed. This review will address most of the major concerns such as the compatibility of the intended use with surrounding land uses, the location of the golf course on the site, the footprint for the clubhouse and the associated parking, and the number of campground units to be constructed. In addition, the Town of Richland Planning Board, under site plan review, will have the authority to impose substantive conditions on the size and location of structures to minimize or avoid the impacts that are identified during the environmental review. In comparison, DEC authority is limited to the issuance of two general SPDES permits. These permits, which are applicable statewide, require that an applicant attest that the project will comply with the standards and conditions contained in the permit. If DEC concurs, following its review of the application and plans, the general permits are issued. It is clear in this case that the jurisdiction of the Town of Richland, under site plan, is much broader than the jurisdiction of the DEC.

The third criterion is based on which agency has the greatest capability for providing the most thorough environmental assessment. Given that the first and second criteria have indicated a clear preference for the Town of Richland Planning Board, consideration of the third criterion is not required.

I conclude, based on the facts presented, that the Town of Richland Planning Board should be lead agency for the conduct of the environmental review for the proposed Binotto Streamside Golf Course due to the local nature of the impacts and the broad scope of authority afforded to the Town of Richland Planning Board under its special permit and site plan approval process.

This decision in no way limits the jurisdiction or responsibility of the other involved agencies. The DEC and the Oswego County Health Department must cooperate with the Town of Richland Planning Board and supply the information needed by the Town in making its determination of significance.

/s/
John P. Cahill, Commissioner
Dated: 11/1/00
Albany, New York

Disputing Agencies/Applicant:

  • Ken Lynch, Regional Director, DEC Region 7
    Ralph Manna, Regional Pen-nit Administrator, DEC Region 7
    Joseph Dlugolenski, DEC Region 7
    Richard Bonner, Chairman, Town of Richland Planning Board
    Carl Falk, Zoning Code Enforcement Officer, Town of Richland
    Allison Stanard, Esq., Attorney, Town of Richland
    Richard Binotto, Applicant

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation:

  • Gavin Donohue, Executive Deputy Commissioner
    Victor Gallo, Counsel, Division of Legal Affairs
    Jack Nasca, Division of Environmental Permits

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