Posted by: Patricia Salkin | December 30, 2019

NY Appellate Court Denies SEQRA Claims Arising from Denial of Special Permit

This post was authored by Matthew Loeser, Esq.

In 2018, respondent Scannell Properties, LLC submitted an application to respondent Town of Schodack Planning Board for site plan approval and a special permit in connection with a project involving the construction of a sales distribution center in the Town of Schodack, Rensselaer County. In July 2018, the Planning Board issued a SEQRA negative declaration and notices of decision granting the application. After this decision, petitioners commenced this CPLR article 78 proceeding and declaratory judgment action, which sought to annul the Planning Board’s determination and direct it to prepare an environmental impact statement (“EIS”). Following joinder of issue, the Supreme Court of New York dismissed the petition.

Petitioners first claimed that the Planning Board failed to comply with SEQRA by not taking a hard look at several areas of environmental concern. Specifically, they alleged the Planning Board failed to address the impact on groundwater quality, traffic, public safety and community character, and that the preparation of an EIS was required. The record reflected that, in analyzing this claim, the Planning Board had the environmental assessment form (“EAF”), a geotechnical engineering report, a stormwater management report, the recommendation of the Town Engineer, and traffic impact studies. The EAF noted that the project would comply with all water control regulations and would not significantly affect the underlying aquifer. Additionally, the Planning Board also considered traffic impact studies and analyses, and found that the surrounding roadway network and intersections had sufficient capacity to accommodate traffic generated by the project. Furthermore, the area for the project was already zoned for distribution facilities and the project was consistent with the community’s character. For the aforementioned reasons, the court affirmed the Supreme Court’s holding that the Planning Board took the requisite hard look at the areas of environmental concern and satisfied its obligations under SEQRA.

Lastly, the petitioners admitted that they participated in these hearings and submitted written comments, but contended that they did not have a chance to comment after Scannell Properties provided supplemental information to the Town Engineer in June 2018. The court found that this alone did not mandate reversal. Moreover, petitioners’ argument that the review process was rushed was found to be without merit since the regulatory scheme did not provide for a minimum time for the application process. Accordingly, the judgment was affirmed.

 Brunner v. Town of Schodack Planning Board, 2019 WL 6558226 (NYAD 3 Dept. 12/5/2019)

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