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Court Rules Demolition Permit Does Not Trigger SEQRA Review

A Court has ruled that the issuance of a demolition permit is not an “action” within the meaning of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”) that requires review under SEQRA. In Matter of Ziemba v. City of Troy, the Appellate Division, Third Department, held that the discretion to be exercised in issuing a demolition permit under the Troy Code “is limited to a narrow set of criteria that is unrelated to the environmental concerns that would be raised in an EIS”.

The SEQRA regulations provide that purely ministerial acts requiring no exercise of discretion are exempt from review under SEQRA. The Court concluded the real inquiry in determining if an action is exempt from SEQRA review is whether the factors to be considered by the permitting agency could trigger issues that would be raised in an environmental impact statement (“EIS”). The Court found SEQRA requires a determination of whether “the underlying regulatory scheme invests the authorizing agency with discretion to act or refuse to act based upon the type of information contained in an EIS”. Therefore, the Court found that an action for which an agency has discretion that is narrowly circumscribed by factors that do not bear any relationship to information that may be contained in an EIS is not an action requiring review under SEQRA.

Here the Court analyzed the nature of the discretion of the permitting authority in issuing a demolition permit under the City of Troy Code and concluded that the discretion to be exercised did not involve issues that would be reviewed by an EIS. Accordingly, the permit could not be denied on SEQRA grounds.