Posted by: Patricia Salkin | September 21, 2019

NY Appellate Court Holds Conflict of Interest Did Not Exist Between Village Board of Trustees Acting as Lead Agency Under SEQRA and Developer

This post was authored by Matthew Loeser, Esq.

Respondent Sullivan Farms II, Inc. sought approval to construct a townhouse complex in the Village of Bloomingburg, Sullivan County. As such, an environmental impact statement under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”) was prepared and respondent Village of Bloomingburg Board of Trustees adopted the findings of the SEQRA findings statement for the project in 2009. Later that month, respondent Village of Bloomingburg Planning Board adopted the findings of the Village Board of Trustees as its own. In 2010, the Village Planning Board granted subdivision and site plan approval to Sullivan Farms, and construction began in 2012. In 2016, petitioner Town of Mamakating Planning Board, acting pursuant to an intermunicipal agreement that gave it the powers, authority and responsibilities of the Village Planning Board, rescinded the 2010 subdivision and site plan approval. Petitioners then commenced this combined CPLR article 78 proceeding and declaratory judgment action seeking to annul the determination by the Village Board of Trustees to reaffirm the 2009 SEQRA findings and the determination by the Village Planning Board to reaffirm the 2010 subdivision and site plan approval.

Petitioners first claimed that the Village Planning Board lacked the authority to reaffirm the 2010 subdivision and site plan approval. As nothing in the record indicated that the Village Planning Board was presented with new information in the amended subdivision and site plan, the court found that the Planning Board was authorized to reaffirm the approval notwithstanding the fact that it had been previously rescinded. The record reflected that various data and information were examined before reaffirming the approval. Specifically, as part of its request that the Village Planning Board consider an amendment to its subdivision and site plan approval, Sullivan Farms submitted analyses from engineering experts examining the potential stormwater impacts and increased water usage due to the proposed expansions of the road. Additionally, Sullivan Farms submitted an analysis contesting the Town Planning Board’s conclusions as to water usage and negative effects of increased traffic.

The court likewise found that Petitioners’ assertion that the Village Board of Trustees lacked jurisdiction to act as the SEQRA lead agency was without merit as the Village Board of Trustees served as the original lead agency and, thus had a continuing duty to evaluate the new evidence presented by Sullivan Farms. As the record reflected that the Village Board of Trustees reviewed and considered various information, including the recommendation, resolutions and SEQRA findings of the Village Planning Board, a report from the Village’s engineer and information provided by Sullivan Farms concerning water and sewage use and increased traffic, the court held that the Village Board of Trustees took the requisite hard look at the relevant areas of concern and satisfied the requirements of SEQRA in determining that a supplemental environmental impact statement was not necessary. Accordingly, the holding of the Supreme Court dismissing petitioners’ application was affirmed.

Town of Mamakating v. Village of Bloomingburg, 174 A.D.3d 1175 (NY 3 Dept. 2019)


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