Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Planning Board Holds Special Meeting

On Monday, June 20, the Planning Board held a special meeting to discuss the lead agency for the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) for the proposed Hidden Forest development. They agreed to send out a Lead Agency Coordination Form to the Involved Agencies. These are agencies which, as the title suggests, are directly involved in the process. They are the Hurley Planning Board, the Hurley Town Board, the Ulster County Department of Highways and Bridges, the Ulster County Department of Health, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the New York State Department of Transportation, the New York State Department of Health and the United States Army Corps of Engineers. This latter agency will receive a form mostly as a matter of courtesy because, we were told, federal wetlands are not subject to the New York State SEQR law. In addition, a number of Interested Agencies have requested to have advisory review power and/or be kept informed of what is happening with the development. They are the Towns of Marbletown and Rosendale, the Ulster County Planning Board, and the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, this latter because of the possibility of historic artifacts (e.g. Indian burial grounds) on the site. Paul Hakim, Chair of the Planning Board, said he thinks the Planning Board is the body best suited to be lead agency with the other organizations having input into the process. He mentioned that the DEC has recently accepted only one offer to be a lead agency and that is of the Crossroads Venture project in Shandakan. (Also, DEC has had a 25% cutback in full-time employees over the past few years and is extremely stretched to handle what they currently have.) Letters are expected to be mailed to the Involved Agencies in about a week from the date of the meeting asking if the receiving agency is interested in being the lead agency for the development. If there is no response to the letter or if they respond that they are not interested, then the Hurley Planning Board will automatically become the lead agency. No mention was made of what happens if a recipient is interested in becoming the lead agency, but, according to the State, if the lead agency cannot be agreed on within 30 calendar days, any of the involved agencies or the applicant can ask the DEC Commissioner to resolve the dispute. Mr. Hakim stated that no further business will be conducted regarding the proposed development until there is a lead agency. He expects to be be able to announce this agency at the the Planning Board meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, August 1. Very briefly, SEQRA requires lead agencies to give equal consideration to environmental protection, human and community resources and economic factors when considering proposed housing develoments, among other projects. It requires a full Environmental Assessment Form to be completed. Click onto the SEQRA Information listing on the right for more details.