Today the City of Hudson commenced an Article 78 lawsuit challenging the SEQRA “negative declaration” issued by the Town of Greenport Planning Board on July 25, in relation to the proposed modifications to the Colarusso haul road crossing the South Bay. The haul road, which crosses the South Bay causeway and terminates onto South Front Street at the Hudson waterfront, is a road by which heavy gravel trucks travel from the Colarusso quarry in Greenport to the commercial dock at the Hudson Waterfront. The Hudson waterfront area is of great concern to the City of Hudson as a whole, and this step—filing the Article 78 lawsuit—is needed to ensure that a proper and sustainable balance of uses and activities is maintained in the waterfront area, and that projects are carried out in ways that minimize unnecessary and avoidable adverse impacts upon the City.
The essential purpose of SEQRA review is to require that before a project proceeds, it must be shown to be the course of action feasible to the applicant that has the least adverse impact on the surrounding community. I think that is an objective that all citizens of Hudson can support, and that is the objective pursued by the filing of this Article 78 lawsuit.
Under New York law, when a proposed project may result in significant adverse environmental impacts, the reviewing lead agency is required to render what is called a “positive declaration.” The effect of a positive declaration is that it requires the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS. The importance of an EIS is that an EIS requires the applicant to do the following: 1) elaborate on the potential adverse impacts of the project, 2) identify and evaluate all viable alternatives, and 3) demonstrate that, among the reasonable alternatives available, the action taken is the one that best avoids or minimizes adverse environmental impacts. In short, an EIS ensures that a proposed project’s objectives are carried out by the best feasible means.
In this environmental review, the Greenport Planning Board served as the lead agency. The City of Hudson and the Hudson Planning Board, however, were involved agencies and were entitled both to provide input into the lead agency’s decision and to have their input taken seriously. Many people, including residents of Hudson, City of Hudson officials, and legal counsel retained in this matter, have expressed their view that the legitimate concerns of Hudson and its residents were discounted or minimized and feel that the Greenport Planning Board failed to properly evaluate the potential impacts of the haul road expansion proposal on the City of Hudson, as is required by New York State Law. In addition, because the Greenport Planning Board adopted a “negative declaration” and did not require Colarusso to prepare an EIS, the City and its Planning Board have been deprived of the benefits of having an EIS prepared by the applicant. The City’s recourse, in light of the Greenport Planning Board’s inadequate consideration of the impacts on Hudson, is to submit the decision to the courts for review. The lawsuit asks that the negative declaration be reversed, and that an EIS be mandated.