Town board’s review of Reader’s Digest property DEIS held up until bill is paid
DEIS in hard copy only, some appendices on disc
October 31, 2008
by Christine Yeres
Lawyers for developer Summit Greenfield, owner of the Reader’s Digest property, paid a surprise visit to the town board on Tuesday, October 28, to protest Supervisor Barbara Gerrard’s statement in Sunday’s Journal News that Summit Greenfield must pay its $400,000 tab and set up a $100,000 escrow account before the town board will look at Summit’s three-volume draft environmental impact statement or DEIS.
The $400,000 bill includes lawyers’ and consultants’ fees incurred by the town board while considering Summit Greenfield’s application for a change in zoning. In January 2006 the board amended the town code to require that applicants reimburse the town for such expenses.
In a letter to Gerrard dated October 28, 2008, the very day of the town board meeting, Stephen Kass, one of Summit Greenfield’s attorneys wrote, “Where, as here, an Applicant is required by the Town to complete a lengthy and detailed DEIS, and spends in excess of $1 million in doing so, it disserves the Applicant, the public and the goals of SEQRA for the lead agency to erect unauthorized barriers that delay public review of that document.”
Bill is under review, and contains some disputed charges
Kass and another of Summit Greenfield’s lawyers, John Marwell, told the board Tuesday night that it had come as a complete surprise to their client to hear that the board was holding review of the DEIS hostage to payment of the bill. They argued that Summit Greenfield was still in the process of examining the bill, received in early September.
In fact, they told the board, their client questioned the validity of about $92,000 of the bill, especially that part of the $92,000 that seemed to have been incurred by consultants working on the town’s generic environmental impact statement. That study of possible uses of the property by the town itself, whether for office space, field space or auditorium, Kass characterized as “your unrequited interest in our property.” He told the board that a check for the remaining three-quarters of the $400,000, as well as $100,000 for the town to put in escrow against future fees incurred, would be sent within a day or two.
Gerrard did not respond specifically to Summit Greenfield’s lawyers. In her supervisor’s report at the beginning of the meeting she had stated that the board had received the DEIS and would begin to review it soon. She reiterated that a hard copy of the DEIS – three weighty four-inch ring binders and one CD with four of 15 appendices – would be available for viewing at town hall. Broad distribution to the community is not possible at this time, Gerrard explained, because scanning the documents to disc would be too costly for the town. She expressed the hope that the developer would provide electronic copies.
Developer declines to make DEIS available on disc until it is in final version
After the meeting, Summit Greenfield publicist Geoff Thompson explained that his client would not release the DEIS on disc until the town board had examined it and declared it “complete,” at the end of the 45-day review mandated by New York State.
“During the review process, the town board may ask for a lot of additional information,” said Thompson, “requiring us to make changes to the document. We want everyone to be working from the same document. We don’t want multiple versions circulating.” Summit Greenfield has also declined to provide town board members with disc versions of the three-volume hard copy.