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Court Vacates SEQRA Findings Statement For Lack Of Support In The Record

The Appellate Division upheld a lower court decision vacating findings issued pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act ( SEQRA). In Matter of Falcon Group LTD. Liab. Co. v. Town/Village of Harrison Planning Board, the Court found that the Planning Board had failed to adopt findings based upon the full record produced in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).

Initially, the Court noted that judicial review of lead agency SEQRA findings is limited, but the findings must still be based upon the facts.

“While an agency’s ultimate conclusion is within the discretion of the agency, it must be based upon factual evidence in the record and not generalized, speculative community objections (see Matter of WEOK Broadcasting Corp. v Planning Bd. of Town Lloyd, 79 NY2d at 384-385).”

The Court found that the Planning Board failed to carry out its mandate in several respects.

“The Board’s conclusions in the findings statement were based, at least in part, on factual findings which were contradicted by the scientific and technical analyses included in the FEIS and not otherwise supported by empirical evidence in the record …While the findings statement discussed the alternatives that involved clustering the development into a smaller area, it did not address the reduced-density alternative set forth in the FEIS, which was not a cluster alternative and which reduced many of the environmental impacts of the original plan. ”

As a result, the Court annulled the findings statement and remitted the matter for the Planning Board to issue findings “consistent with the FEIS.”

-Steven Silverberg