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Lead Agency Dispute: Town of Putnam Valley v. Town of Yorktown

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

PROJECT: Proposed Trump Indian Hill Golf Club located in the Towns of Putnam Valley, Putnam County, and Yorktown, Westchester County

DISPUTING AGENCIES: Town of Putnam Valley and the Town of Yorktown

This decision to designate the Town of Putnam Valley Planning Board as lead agency for the conduct of the environmental review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) is made pursuant to Article 8 of the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) and 6 NYCRR Part 617. This decision is based on my finding that the Town of Putnam Valley Planning Board, due to its site development plan approval authority, has the broadest governmental powers for the investigation of the impacts of the proposed action.

The proposed project is the application of the Trump Organization to construct an 18-hole golf course with associated maintenance facilities, club house and parking on a 226-acre parcel located in the Town of Putnam Valley. The Trump Organization also owns an adjacent 30.5-acre parcel located in the Town of Yorktown which is not, at this time, the subject of a development proposal.

Claims regarding the absence of jurisdiction have been raised by the Town of Putnam Valley Planning Board as a challenge to the Town of Yorktown's ability to qualify as an involved agency as that term is defined in 6 NYCRR 617.2(s). The role of lead agency may be assumed only by an involved agency. In practice, an agency is treated as an involved agency unless it can be shown with reasonable certainty that it has no jurisdiction in the particular action. In this proceeding, it can be reasonably argued that the Town of Yorktown may have a jurisdictional role in this action. From the information provided, it appears that the project sponsor's original access proposal and several alternatives involve Yorktown roads, some of which would require substantial upgrading to support construction. In addition, project alternatives being evaluated to avoid impacts to wetlands may involve redesign of the project into lands within the Town of Yorktown. Either of these scenarios would require a discretionary approval from the Town of Yorktown. Therefore, I find the Town of Yorktown should be treated as an involved agency.

The Town of Yorktown, in its request that I designate a lead agency for this project, has also requested that I consider establishing the Towns of Putnam Valley and Yorktown as "co-lead" agencies. The SEQRA regulations [617.6(b)(5)] only provide me with the authority to designate a lead agency, so the request to consider designation of "co-lead" agencies is denied.

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. The proposed project is the construction of an 18-hole golf course with associated maintenance facilities, club house and parking on a 226-acre parcel located in the Town of Putnam Valley. At present, all of the on-site physical construction is proposed to occur within the Town of Putnam Valley. However, off-site construction to upgrade the existing road network and subsequent use of that road to access the proposed golf course will impact lands located within the Town of Yorktown. There is also the possibility that alternative designs to mitigate impacts to on-site wetlands may require some golf course construction to occur in the Town of Yorktown. Since the impacts are primarily local in nature and both municipalities will likely be impacted, I must proceed to the next criterion in order to resolve this dispute.

The next criterion addresses the breadth of jurisdiction. Consideration of this criterion reveals a clear distinction between the disputing agencies. The Town of Putnam Valley must issue a site development plan approval in order for the project to be constructed. Since the majority of the proposed project will be located in the Town of Putnam Valley, this review will address most of the major concerns including the siting of the golf course and the siting and construction of all of the accessory structures. The associated environmental review will have to address not only the construction of these facilities but also impacts such as traffic that will result from the operation of the golf club. Under its site development plan approval, the Town of Putnam Valley Planning Board will have the authority to impose substantive conditions on the size and location of structures, including the course itself, to avoid or minimize the impacts that are identified during the environmental review. In contrast, the Town of Yorktown's jurisdiction will be limited to the upgrading of the road network needed to accommodate the increase in traffic resulting from the project and the review of that portion of the golf course that might be constructed in the Town of Yorktown due to a modification in the layout to mitigate wetland impacts. The ability of the Town of Yorktown to impose substantive conditions and mitigation would be limited in the same fashion. Therefore, I find that the jurisdiction of the Town of Putnam Valley Planning Board provides broader authority to review and provide mitigation for the anticipated impacts from this proposal.

The third criterion relates to the capacity of an agency to provide for a thorough environmental assessment. Given that the second criterion has indicated a clear preference for the Town of Putnam Valley Planning Board, consideration of the third criterion is not critical. Both parties to this dispute possess the necessary staff or the ability to obtain the assistance of consultants to undertake an adequate environmental review for the proposed action.

I conclude, based on the facts presented, that the Town of Putnam Valley Planning Board should be lead agency for the conduct of the environmental review for the proposed Trump Indian Hill Golf Club due to the local nature of the impacts and the broad scope of authority afforded to the Town of Putnam Valley Planning Board under its site development plan approval process.

This decision in no way limits the jurisdiction or responsibility of the Town of Yorktown. The Town of Putnam Valley Planning Board has indicated that a draft environmental impact statement will be prepared to assess the potential impacts from the proposed expansion and that a formal scoping process will be conducted. I urge the Town of Yorktown to actively participate in the scoping and review of the environmental impact statement so that the record developed by the Town of Putnam Valley Planning Board will adequately satisfy their needs if approvals are needed from the Town of Yorktown.

/s/
John P. Cahill, Commissioner
Dated: 12/28/99
Albany, New York

Disputing Agencies/Applicant:

  • John Zarcone, Jr., Chairman, Town of Putnam Valley Planning Board
    John Tegeder, Planner, Town of Yorktown
    Frederick Koelsch, Shamberg, Marwell, Hocherman, Davis & Hollis, Counsel,
    The Trump Organization
    Tim Miller, Tim Miller Associates, Consultant, The Trump Organization

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation:

  • Marc Moran, Regional Director, DEC Region 3
    Margaret Duke, Regional Permit Administrator, DEC Region 3
    Victor Gallo
    Jack Nasca

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