Lead Agency Dispute: Town of Poughkeepsie 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: The Poughkeepsie Galleria Regional Shopping Mall located in the Town of Poughkeepsie proposes to demolish some existing retail buildings, expand the enclosed mall by approximately 861,000 square feet of gross leasable area and construct additional parking on a 128 acre site.
DISPUTING AGENCIES: Town of Poughkeepsie Town Board (Town Board) and the Town of Poughkeepsie Planning Board (Planning Board)
This decision to designate the Town of Poughkeepsie Planning Board as lead agency for the conduct of the environmental review under the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process is made pursuant to Article 8 of the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) and 6 NYCRR Part 617. I ind that the broadest jurisdiction lies with the Town of Poughkeepsie Planning Board based on their site plan review authority.
The proposed project consists of expanding the gross leasable area of the Poughkeepsie Galleria Regional Shopping Mall from 1,208,128 square feet to 2,069,008. To construct this additional space, a current free standing 44,101 square foot South Road Square will be demolished and this five acre parcel will be incorporated into the overall project. The project sponsor has submitted an application for site plan approval to the Planning Board and has requested amendments to the Town of Poughkeepsie Zoning Code that would alter bulk area requirements applicable to enclosed shopping centers having over one million square feet of floor area. At the present time these local laws will apply only to the Poughkeepsie Galleria. The Town Board must review and approve these proposed revisions to the Town Zoning Code.
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 impacts of the proposed action; (3) which agency has the greatest capability for providing the most thorough environmental assessment of the proposed action.
The potential significant impacts identified by both boards include: expanded traffic on State Highway Route 9, traffic impacts to local town roads in the vicinity, waste disposal, construction impacts, noise, aesthetics, sewer capacity and public safety. All of these impacts are primarily local in nature. Since both disputing agencies are local agencies it is necessary that I proceed to the next criterion in order to resolve this dispute.
Criterion number 2 requires that I determine which agency has the broadest governmental powers for investigating the potential environmental impacts of the proposed action. The Planning Board has the jurisdiction to consider the site plan approval for the entire reconfigured project. Site plan approval, by definition in the Town of Poughkeepsie local code, encompasses all aspects of the proposed project including those impacts identified above that have been anticipated from this proposed expansion. In addition, the planning board has jurisdiction over building demolition and architectural review, both of which are elements of the proposed project. The Town Board's review in this instance is limited to evaluating the areas of concern surrounding the issuance or denial of the proposed local laws, which I find more restrictive than the jurisdiction of the planning board.
Both agencies possess the ability to obtain the necessary staff or resources to undertake an adequate environmental review for the proposed project through the use of consultants or existing staff. Therefore the third criterion regarding which agency has the greatest capability for providing the most thorough environmental assessment for the proposed action does not weigh heavily in this decision.
I conclude, based on the broader jurisdiction provided under the site plan review process, that the Town of Poughkeepsie Planning Board should be the lead agency for the conduct of the environmental review for the proposed Poughkeepsie Galleria Mall expansion.
This decision in no way limits or lessens the jurisdiction of the Town Board in its important function of reviewing the proposed local laws. The Town of Poughkeepsie Planning Board as lead agency must work closely with the Town Board to ensure that the environmental record contains the information needed by the Town Board in order to make a decision on the proposed amendments to the local zoning code. From a review of the correspondence submitted for the dispute resolution, it appears likely that an environmental impact statement will be required for the proposed expansion. The applicant has submitted as part of its application, a supplemental DEIS. The Planning Board should consider this document as an expanded environmental assessment form consistent with 6 NYCRR 617.6(a)(4) for the purpose of initiating the environmental review for the proposed mall expansion.
John P. Cahill Commissioner
Albany, New York
Distribution of Copies:
- Town of Poughkeepsie Town Board
Town of Poughkeepsie Planning Board
Frank E. Redl, Attorney for the Town Board
G. Brian Morgan, Attorney for the Planning Board
Wilson Shook, Town Planner
Daniel Ruzow, Attorney for the Applicant
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation:
- John P. Cahill