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Lead Agency Dispute: Town of Corning v. Village of South Corning

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

PROJECT: Application by Step Back MycoBrewers to construct a small brewery on a 70-acre site in the Town of Corning in Steuben County

DISPUTING AGENCIES: Town of Corning Town Board and the Village of South Corning Board of Trustees

This decision to designate the Town of Corning Town 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 are primarily local and the Town of Corning Town Board, in its review of the zoning change, has broader authority than the Village of South Corning for investigation of the impacts.

The proposed project is the application by Step Back MycoBrewers to construct a small brewery and mushroom farm on 40 acres of a 73-acre site in the Town of Corning, Steuben County. The applicant also seeks approval for the establishment of a small community of artisans' studios and sales area, sports fields and a theater. The site is presently zoned R- I and the applicant is seeking a rezoning to a Planned Development District.

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. Both agencies have identified the potential for traffic impacts to State Route 225, providing potable water for the facility and treatment of wastewater as impacts of concern. It is clear that all of the physical construction for the proposed project including provisions for the treatment of wastewater will occur in the Town of Corning. Traffic impacts will also be felt primarily in the Town of Corning. The only issue that would impact the Village of South Corning is the potential that the applicant may request water service from the existing Village water supply system. However, the applicant may also choose to develop an on-site water supply system. Since the anticipated impacts are local in nature and the majority of the impacts will occur in the Town of Corning, this criterion clearly points to the Town of Corning Town Board as the likely lead agency.

The Village of South Corning requested that the Region 8 Office of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) be established as the lead agency based on the Village's conclusion that the impacts from the proposed project are regional in nature. However, my finding that the impacts are primarily local in nature eliminates the need to consider the Region 8 Office of DEC as a candidate for lead agency.

The next criterion, the breadth of jurisdiction, substantially favors the Town of Corning Town Board as lead agency. The applicant must obtain a zoning change in order for the project to be built as proposed. The applicant is seeking a zoning change from R- I to a Planned Development District (PDD). In making this decision, the Board will have to consider the basic land use question regarding the suitability of the site for a PDD and address concerns such as density and compliance with siting requirements specified under the PDD regulations. In comparison, the scope of the approval of the Village of South Corning Board of Trustees is limited to the extension of water supply to the site. It is clear that the jurisdiction of the Town of Corning under its zoning authority is much broader than the jurisdiction of the Village of South Corning.

The third criterion is based on which agency has the greatest capability for providing the most thorough environmental assessment. I find that both agencies possess, or could obtain through consultants, the staff to conduct a thorough environmental review.

I conclude, based on the local nature of the impacts and the broader nature of its zoning authority, that the Town of Corning Town Board should be lead agency for the conduct of the SEQR review for the proposed Step Back MycoBrewers project.

This decision in no way limits the jurisdiction or responsibility of the Village of South Corning Board of Trustees. I strongly encourage the Village of South Corning to actively participate in the environmental review so that the record developed by the Town of Corning Town Board will adequately satisfy their needs when the applicant seeks the necessary approval(s) from the Village.

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

Disputing Agencies/Applicant:

  • Joseph Prisella, Supervisor, Town of Corning
    Judson Van Etten, Jr., Mayor, Village of South Corning
    John Hicks, Regional Director, DEC Region 8
    Peter Lent, Acting Regional Permit Administrator, DEC Region 8
    Kimberly Merchant, Environmental Analyst, DEC Region 8
    Thomas Gonta, Step Back MycoBrewers

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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