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Lead Agency Dispute: Village of Southampton v. Board of Architectural Review and Preservation 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: Proposed renovation and expansion of the Parrish Art Museum, including the museum proper, the adjoining former public library building, and associated new structures and landscaping; Village of Southampton, Suffolk County.

DISPUTING AGENCIES: Village of Southampton Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation, Village of Southampton Planning Board , and Village of Southampton Board of Trustees.

This decision to designate the Village of Southampton Planning Board (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 New York State (NYS) Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) and 6 NYCRR Part 617. This decision is based on my finding that the Planning Board has the broadest authority over the proposed action and thus is best suited to lead the environmental review. This decision does not limit the responsibilities of the Village of Southampton Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation (BARHP), the Village of Southampton Board of Trustees (Trustees), or other involved agencies in the exercise of their own separate jurisdictions. Specifically, architectural and historic compatibility concerns remain subject to the jurisdiction of the BARHP; the Trustees must concur with the Parrish Art Museum Board of Directors' (Museum) final plans for that portion of the project occurring on the property which the Museum leases from the Village of Southampton (Village); and the Village of Southampton Board of Appeals (Appeals Board) and Suffolk County Department of Health Services (SC-DHS), neither of whom contested for lead agency, may need to approve parking and septic modifications, respectively. The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) retains its advisory function.

The proposed project is the application by the Museum to:

  • • construct a 14,000 square foot addition to the Parrish Art Museum main building, which is listed on the National and New York State Registers of Historic Places and is also locally designated as historic;
    • renovate and enlarge the adjoining former public library, also listed on the National and New York State Registers of Historic Places and locally designated, to use for gift shop, office and lecture facilities;
    • construct new lecture/special events, food preparation, and tea-room buildings;
    • reconfigure existing plus add new interconnecting pedestrian walkways;
    • rearrange the existing driveway and parking areas.

The project may also include:

  • • acquisition by the Museum of a small parcel of Village land;
    • modification of a Village parking lot; and
    • expansion of the existing septic system.

The entire proposed project site is included in one of the Village's four historic districts.

In order for the project to be undertaken as proposed, the following agencies have authority to issue discretionary approvals:

  • • the BARHP must issue certificates of appropriateness under Village law § 65-6 for the proposed alterations to the two listed historic buildings and for all the other site modifications proposed within the historic district, and must as well conduct historic preservation reviews under § 65-2 of Village Law; (Letter from Elbert W. Robinson, Esq., on behalf of the Village of Southampton Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation, to Marna Posluszny, Department of Environmental Conservation, Tab 3 (March 11, 2003) (on file with author). Letter from Vincent S. Scubinshi, Esq., on behalf of the Southampton Village Planning Board, to Commissioner Erin Crotty, Tab 4 (February 20, 2003) (on file with author)).
    • the Planning Board must approve all aspects of the site plan, under Village law § 116-38 as authorized by NYS Village Law, Article 7, § 7-725-a; (Letter from Vincent S. Scubinshi, Esq., on behalf of the Southampton Village Planning Board, to Commissioner Erin Crotty, Tab 2 (February 20, 2003) (on file with author)).
    • the Trustees, on behalf of the Village as owner and lessor of the actual museum property, must concur with any alterations proposed by the Museum, and may need to transfer a small piece of property to the Museum; (Letter from Richard E. DePetris, Esq., on behalf of the Village of Southampton to Marna Posluszny, Department of Environmental Conservation, Exhibit D-E (March 11, 2003) (on file with author)).
    • the Appeals Board will be required to issue a zoning variance, depending on final parking plans; (Letter from Vincent S. Scubinshi, Esq., on behalf of the Southampton Village Planning Board, to Commissioner Erin Crotty, Tab 4 (February 20, 2003) (on file with author)). and
    • the SC-DHS will be required to approve any septic system expansions or upgrades. (Letter from Elbert W. Robinson, Esq., on behalf of the Village of Southampton Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation, to Marna Posluszny, Department of Environmental Conservation, P. 8 of SEQRA Environmental Assessment Form (March 11, 2003) (on file with author)).

The involved agencies which have expressed a desire to act as lead agency for the environmental review of the Parrish Art Museum expansion proposal are the Planning Board, BARHP, and the Trustees. Neither the Appeals Board nor the SC-DHS responded to the contesting agencies' filings, nor to the letter sent by NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (department) staff requesting additional information on the dispute. OPRHP did not comment on the dispute. The Southampton Preservation Society (Society), through its attorney, submitted an extended letter supporting designation of either the Planning Board or BARHP as lead agency for this review. Ms. Ceal Havemeyer, Society President, also submitted two letters under her own signature with additional background information on the Museum's facilities and plans.

In resolving a lead agency dispute, I am guided by the three criteria listed in order of importance in 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.

In this case, there is no real distinction among the disputing agencies as to the first criterion, as all three agencies are local entities, and all of the impacts identified in each of their filings are primarily of local significance. These potential impacts include direct impacts on the designated historic structures and properties, potential change in character of the designated historic district, and possible impacts on traffic flow and parking in the Village downtown area.

Accordingly, I move to consider the second criterion, breadth of authority, and on this point there are clear distinctions among the disputing agencies. The Trustees, as owners and lessors of the leased museum properties, must concur with any changes such as the proposed renovations, expansions, and alterations, and they could be required to authorize transfer of a small gore of Village property to the Museum; however, the Trustees have no jurisdiction or authority over the project as a whole.

By contrast, the BARHP has jurisdiction over the proposed modifications to both designated historic buildings and over much of the other site work, specifically evaluating how it might affect the character of those historic resources. (Southampton Village Code § 116-33(2003)) The Planning Board, however, through its site plan review authority, has the broadest jurisdiction (Southampton Village Code § 116-38(D)(2003)). It has authority to review the proposed project in its entirety, including all aspects of the proposed building expansions and renovations as well as parking, lighting, walkways, and other landscaping and site alterations (Southampton Village Code § 116-38(B)(2003)). Furthermore, the Planning Board may also evaluate the proposed project for its conformity with local plans and zoning (Southampton Village Code § 116-38(D) (2003)). Thus, using the second criterion of breadth of authority, the Planning Board is the most appropriate lead agency for this proposed project because it has the requisite authority to review the proposed project in its entirety.

The third criterion relates to the capacity of an agency to provide for a thorough environmental assessment. All three disputing agencies possess or can draw on comparable expertise and experience to undertake the necessary environmental review of the proposed project.

For the foregoing reasons and based on the facts presented, I conclude that the Village of Southampton Planning Board should be lead agency for the conduct of the environmental review for the proposed expansion of the Parrish Art Museum due to its possessing the broadest governmental powers to investigate the impacts.

Again, this decision in no way limits the jurisdiction or responsibilities of the other involved and interested agencies, and I encourage the Planning Board to seek and use the specific expertise of the other agencies in evaluating potential impacts and developing viable alternatives to mitigate or avoid any unacceptable impacts.

/s/
Erin M. Crotty, Commissioner
Dated: 6/30/03
Albany, New York

Disputing Agencies?Applicant:

  • Village of Southampton Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation, attn: Hamilton Hoge, Chair
    Elbert W. Robinson, Jr., Esq.
    Planning Board of the Village of Southampton, attn: Mardooni Vahradian, Chair
    Village of Southampton Board of Trustees, attn: Joseph P. Romanosky, Jr., Mayor
    Richard E. DePetris, Esq., Village Attorney, Village of Southampton

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation:

  • John Pavacic, Regional Permit Administrator, Region 1 (Stony Brook)
    Michael Naughton, Esq., Legal Affairs, Albany
    Betty Ann Hughes, Environmental Permits, Albany

Additional Copies - Involved/ Interested Agencies:

  • Village of Southampton Board of Appeals, attn: Daniel Guzewicz
    Suffolk County Department of Health Services
    NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, attn: James Warren
    Southampton Preservation Society, attn: Jeffrey L. Bragman, Esq.
    Ceal Havemayer, President., Southampton Preservation Society

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