The Town of Southeast Town Board will not vote on whether or not the preliminary environmental impact statement [pDEIS] for the proposed hotel-retail Crossroads project is complete or not, as was previously expected to happen at a meeting this Thursday, July 26.
The date for the vote was postponed for approximately one month after consultants for the town advised the town board the content of pDEIS was incomplete and the developer agreed to extend the state-mandated deadline for the town board to take a vote, in order to include more elements requested by the town’s consultants.
This deciision will delay the period for formal public comment, which will include a pubic hearing, that had been anticipated to take place some time in September or October.
The decision to postpone the vote on completeness was made at a special meeting held last Thursday night at which the developer and his consultants discussed the requirements for completeness obligated by the environmental review process, known as SEQR, with the members of the town board and the town’s planning consultant Ashley Ley.
Town Supervisor Tony Hay said that much of the data in the pDEIS was three years old and that the document didn’t include information on how the applicant planned to meet costly federally-mandated stormwater management and phosphorous reduction regulations [MS4], among what Hay deemed other ommissions.
The attorney for the applicant, Richard O’Rourke, explained there was case law regarding the acceptability of the age of information included in a pDEIS, as the process was a very lengthy and detailed one.
O’Rourke also said that the pDEIS was based on a scoping document adopted by a previous town board several years ago, when MS4 had not yet been implemented and, as such, it was not required to include it at this time. O’Rourke went on to say that the applicant would be required to include a plan to deal with MS4 requirements before the environmental review process was finalized, and that it’s non-inclusion, at present, should not keep the town board from approving completeness of this phase of the review.
Ley said certain elements of the scoping document had not been fulfilled, and as such, the pDEIS was incomplete.
Reading from the SEQR handbook several times, Councilwoman Elizabeth Hudak said substantive questions and issues would be addressed in the next phase of the process.
“The DEIS is a document that is going to be substantially vetted by various agencies, by us and by the public,” Councilwoman Elizabeth Hudak said. “I don’t want to get bogged down.”
Hay had an opposite concern regarding the pace of the environmental review process.
“This has been put on a supersonic fast track. We are being pushed to put this through,” Hay said.
Upon discussion of delaying the vote, Ley advised that the town board should move forward on the vote, deem the document incomplete and then the applicant could return with a revised document, as was the norm in the environmental review process, she said.
“My concern is that all of this back and forth needs to get into the document,” she said of the discussion that took place at the meeting.
In the end, Hay, Hudak and Councilman Edwin Alvarez voted in favor of delaying the vote on completeness of the pDEIS for one month, with Eckardt opposed to the postponement.
“I feel it is important to vote ‘no’ and to have a fresh start,” Eckardt said.
Councilman Robert Cullen was not present at the meeting.