Thursday, March 26, 2009

Decoding SEQR, Part II

This is part 2 of what will now be a three-part series on SEQR. I'll be recapping the meeting tomorrow or tonight, and expect a final SEQR post discussing the "So What?" this weekend. Be sure to check Islanders Point Blank this evening, since Chris Botta will probably be liveblogging the meeting.


I cannot over-emphasize how important it is to try to attend today's public information session for the Lighthouse. The meeting will be at the Long Island Marriott (right next to the Coliseum) at 7PM. Be sure to show up early if you want to sign up for the speaking roster.

Also, I have no solid news on this, but there could be more news reported tonight. Tom Suozzi, Charles Wang, and Scott Rechler are confirmed to be in attendance, and when you put high-level people in a room you never know what could happen. I gave a few people connected to the situation a chance to categorically deny a surprise announcement, and they would not.

Anyway, on to our regularly-scheduled SEQR post (please consult the primer from yesterday if you need clarity on certain terms or acronyms):

SEQR Steps

As mentioned before, the SEQR process is known to be very thorough and laborious for both developers and government agencies. This chart from the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation graphically depicts the steps involved, and we'll discuss them a bit here.

(Blogger's Note: All timeframes are considered rough outlines under SEQR. They can be amended with mutual consent of both parties under state law. Some pieces related to the Lighthouse are being done in parallel, so some of these timeframes may be different in practice)

Propose Action

Developer formally submits application of proposed development to appropriate government agencies.

Determine if it is Subject to SEQR

The Lighthouse was determined to be a Type I action under SEQRA, thus subjecting it to environmental review.

Submit FEAF

Developer prepares preliminary environmental assessment, which sets the stage for a Declaration.

Declare Lead Agency

A government entity has up to 30 days under SEQR to review the FEAF and declare itself Lead Agency on the proposed development. In this instance, the Town of Hempstead has declared itself Lead Agency

Review for Significance

Lead Agency has up to 20 days to review FEAF and determine which declaration must be issued.

Issue Declaration

Lead Agency reports its findings on FEAF. If adverse impact is considered minimal, the Lead Agency will issue a Negative Declaration, ending the environmental review process (pending legal challenge)

In the case of the Lighthouse, the Lead Agency determined that adverse environmental impact may be significant. Therefore, the Town of Hempstead issued a Positive Declaration, which triggered the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

EIS Scoping

Once an EIS is determined to be necessary, the Lead Agency has up to 60 days to define the document's scope. This is an optional step, but the Town of Hempstead did this through the two public hearings held in May 2008.

Prepare Draft EIS

The developer prepares the Draft Environmental Impact Statement based on the parameters set forth in scoping. This is the longest period of time in SEQR, since there is not a required period in which the document must be completed. In addition, as mentioned before, SEQR contains a challenge procedure. If the developer does not prepare an exhaustive study, or if things are rushed, citizens may challenge the environmental review in court. If the challenge is successful, the process must start over from the beginning.

The Draft EIS is complete and was submitted to the Town of Hempstead following the public hearing held on February 24, 2009.

Review Draft EIS - WE ARE HERE

The Lead Agency has 45 days to review the Draft EIS and make sure it is both complete and exhaustive. We are currently in Day 30 of that process, soon to move into...

Public Review and Comment

The Lead Agency is required to provide the Draft EIS for public review and solicit comments for roughly 30-60 days under SEQR. In this period, citizens (that's us) are encouraged to review the document and suggest issues that may need to be studied, or to simply provide opinions on the overall project.

SEQR hearings are optional, but Kate Murray's comments suggests that the Town of Hempstead will convene a public hearing on the Lighthouse Project sometime within the month.

Prepare Final EIS

This period is elongated because the Town of Hempstead, as Lead Agency, has decided to hold public hearings on the Lighthouse. The Final EIS is one of the largest milestones to come, since it also includes the final scope of the project. This makes sense; the Town of Hempstead, Nassau County, and the Lighthouse need to determine what will be build on the property before determining the environmental impact of the entire development. Expect this process to stretch for 30-60 days.

Final Notice of Completion of Final EIS

Lead Agency reports that Final EIS is completed. The Final EIS is owned by the Lead Agency, not the developer, so the Final EIS will become the Town of Hempstead's document.

Dark Period

10 days of no action.

Findings from Each Agency

Each agency with a stake in the development reports its findings on the Final EIS. There is no set time-frame for this to happen.

Final Agency Decision

The Lead Agency renders its final decision on the Project. The law empowers the Lead Agency to reject the Final EIS if it is determined to be incomplete, insufficient, or if all that can be done to minimize negative impact is not done.

An approval from the Town of Hempstead would clear the way for the process to move forward.

(Blogger's Note: I've been asked a few times if the Lead Agency is empowered to reject a proposed development even if all necessary actions are taken. Though I believe there must be an environmental reason to reject a proposed development, I am not clear, and I will follow up with the appropriate parties)

Next Steps

Once the SEQR process is completed, we will see the following steps:
  • Approval of property sub-divisions (Nassau County Planning Commission)
  • Re-zoning hearing (Town of Hempstead)
  • Lease Negotiations (Nassau County)
  • Issuing of Building Permits (Town of Hempstead)
  • Shovels in the Ground
Coming Soon

Tonight or tomorrow, we will have a run-down of tonight's Not Pep Rally. Over the weekend, expect a final post on SEQR that discusses the "So What?" and how this process relates to the overall project success.

Please share your thoughts in comments. Petition. Feedback.


  1. Good Luck Nick!!! Excellent run down and explanation of the whole process... I guess the vulnerable parts of the process for the developers are the EIS requirements to solve any impact problems, and the no-time frame periods for the town where each agency of the town compiles a report ... this gives the town the ability to stall.

    As always ... I'll be dialed in.

    Good Luck tonight Nick.

  2. Awesome rundown. Thanks for taking the time to translate all of this complicated stuff into simple terms.