First Posted: Tuesday, September 16, 2014 -11:42 a.m
— Town of Manlius government leaders said last week the village of
Manlius is squeezing them out of the planning process for the proposed
new fire station at the corner of Enders Road and Route 92, even though
the site of the new station is entirely outside the village.
Manlius town board and town zoning board of appeals held a joint public
meeting last week about the issue and, after receiving information and
guidance from the town attorney, both agreed to consider the situation
and make decisions about project jurisdiction at their respective
town and village have been at odds over the project since the village
board unanimously passed resolutions in late June declaring their
“municipal sovereignty” from the town and seeking immunity from town
regulations as they try to bring the fire station project to fruition.
While the village is charged with providing fire protection to the town,
the land for the proposed station is on town land.
has to do with the sovereignty of the process,” said Manlius Town
Supervisor Ed Theobald. “We do want to make this work, but we want to do
it the right way.”
concern is, why wouldn’t the town board have jurisdiction over this
like any other project in the town?” said town attorney Steve Primo.
Mayor Paul Whorrall, who attended the meeting but did not speak, said
the next day, “I took away from the meeting exactly why, after six
months, there is no inter-municipal agreement. If it’s going to be this
long and arduous climate, couldn’t they just turn around and say it’s
not appropriate to build the fire station there? That’s exactly our
one of the municipalities — either the village or the town — is
declared the “lead agency” in terms of the state-mandated environmental
impact review process of the project (State Environmental Quality Review
Act, or SEQR), the project cannot get started.
The village has spent nearly seven years — and more than $440,000 — working to improve the fire station situation.
currently has two fire stations, station 1, which is located on
Stickley Drive, and station 2, on Pompey Center Road. The village spent
six years — from 2007 to 2013 — investigating the possibility of
renovating both fire stations due to the deteriorating conditions and
lack of sufficient facilities, such as restrooms, cleaning facilities,
bunk rooms and overall handicapped accessibility. Both stations have
issues that require remediation to ensure the “health and safety” of
emergency personnel, Whorrall has said.
numerous studies and much deliberation, the village Fire Facilities
Committee decided to take the plans of what was needed at the two
stations and combined them into one 20,000-square-foot building, which
is proposed to be located at the corner of Enders Road and Route 92.
new station would become the hub for all Manlius fire personnel, and
the proposed location would be right in the middle of the Manlius fire
district, which reaches south into the town of Pompey and as far east as
the border of the town of Sullivan. The location would not only be more
central in terms of response time to emergencies, but also for
emergency responders to reach the station when they are called to
respond to a situation, Whorrall said.
#The proposal for a single, consolidated station was announced last September.
village has been paying the landowner, Walrus Enterprises, $1,000 a
month to hold the four-acre property at Enders and Route 92 for the
village. That contract expired at the end of August, and the village had
hoped to hold a village referendum on bonding for the new fire station
before that expiration, but no vote occurred because the village and
town could not come to an inter-municipal agreement. As a result of the
six-month delay and the need to move the project forward, the village
board voted unanimously on June 24 to declare its municipal sovereignty
from the town.
On July 1, the mayor and
village clerk were invited to the town board’s regular meeting to
discuss the village’s position. Town Supervisor Ed Theobald said
afterward that the town board still had “major concerns” about the
issue, and would make a decision by the end of July. The town board
never made an official decision, but it did vote to object to the
village’s application for lead agency status under the SEQR, and sent a
letter to the state Department of Environmental Conservation stating its
the meantime, the village’s contract with Walrus Enterprises expired,
although it has been extended while this issue continues, Whorrall said.
the joint town board and zoning board of appeals meeting last week,
Primo told the two assembled boards that the purpose of the meeting was
to make a determination as to the town’s jurisdiction in the fire
station proposal, specifically as to the village’s assertion of
sovereign immunity and exemption from town regulations. He said the
board also had to decide whether the project should be allowed to go
forward without the town being named lead agency for SEQR review.
said the boards needed to discuss the “balancing test” criteria as
related to one municipality declaring sovereignty from another for a
specific project, and laid out nine criteria as set forth in the main
legal precedent case on the issue, Monroe County v. City of Rochester,
from 1988. Those criteria included items such as considering alternate
project locations, alternate methods to provide project improvement,
impact on legitimate local interests and the extent of
inter-governmental participation in the project.
procedural law is not that clear” to help make a determination in this
case, Primo said. “It is somewhat confusing and it is unique.”
said that from his perspective, once the village adopted its June
resolution of sovereign immunity, the town does not even have “involved
agency” status in project planning and zoning decisions. “We’re looking
for some give-back,” he said.
Other town board members agreed.
Nicholas Marzola said the town board is concerned about having “at
least some say and standing in the process,” and having an opportunity
to review all the necessary project information and studies.
John Loeffler said there is a concern that, while the SEQR process is
always the same, different boards can reach different outcomes in how
they answer the SEQR questions based on their specific concerns. He said
the boards’ decision was about what was the “right process” and “best
approach” to the question of whether the village or the town is the lead
agency for SEQR review and, ultimately, chooses how the process is
administered and accomplished.
said he had heard from town constituents that because the proposed fire
station is on town property the town should be named lead agency and
the project should go through the town zoning and planning process.
are checks and balances here — there are due diligence issue by us, the
town board,” he said. “We want to do everything we can to make this
work, but we must do it correctly and do it together.”
attorney Matt Kerwin told the joint meeting that the village is
“committed to this project and sees it as crucial to improve and
maintain emergency services in the village and town alike.” He said the
village board is dedicated to working together with the town. “I think
there’s a solution to be found here among everyone,” he said.
the state DEC will make a determination as to who the lead agency will
be for the fire station project, Whorrall said, although he has no idea
which way the DEC may decide to go.
the DEC chooses the village as lead agency, they will work together
with the town board on the project; if the DEC chooses the town to lead,
then the village board will have to discuss that decision with its
attorney and decide the best way to move forward, Whorrall said.
“We will work with [the town],
as we have all along; we’ve never left them,” he said. “What they’re
willing to do, we don’t know.”
to why the village and town are arguing over this if the DEC is making
the decision anyway, Manlius Village Clerk Martha Dygert said it is her
understanding that if the town disputes the lead agency issue now, then
if the DEC chooses the village the town can challenge that decision in
court and dispute the village’s claim that the town is not an involved
two town boards agreed to consider the issue further and vote as boards
at their next respective meetings. The next ZBA meeting is Thursday,
Sept. 18, while the next town board meeting is on Wednesday, Sept. 24.
#Jason Emerson is editor of the Eagle Bulletin. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 434-8889 ext. 335.