Ferrara Fiorenza P.C.
 

New N.Y.S. Education Department Approval Process For Capital Projects

The New York State Education Department’s Office of Facilities Planning (OFP) recently announced a new approval process for every capital project submitted to OFP for a building permit whether or not the project is eligible for building aid.  This new process is designed to comply with the new State Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Policy Act, which became effective on January 22, 2011. The Act amends the Environmental Conservation law and its intent is to prevent sprawl development from public infrastructure projects through the consideration of smart growth criteria. 

The new process involves a written smart growth impact statement signed by the school district indicating that the project, to the extent practicable, meets the relevant criteria set forth in the law, or alternatively that the project is not in compliance with the smart growth criteria because compliance is impractical. A written statement of justification of the district’s position is required. 

The following are the state smart growth public infrastructure criteria: 

  • To advance projects for the use, maintenance or improvement of existing infrastructure;
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  • To advance projects located in municipal centers;
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  • To advance projects in developed areas or areas designated for concentrated infill development in a municipally approved comprehensive land use plan, local waterfront revitalization plan and/or Brownfield opportunity area plan;
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  • To protect, preserve and enhance the state's resources, including agricultural land, forests, surface and groundwater, air quality, recreation and open space, scenic areas, and significant historic and archeological resources;
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  • To foster mixed land uses and compact development, downtown revitalization, Brownfield redevelopment, the enhancement of beauty in public spaces, the diversity and affordability of housing in proximity to places of employment, recreation and commercial development and the integration of all income and age groups;
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  • To provide mobility through transportation choices including improved public transportation and reduced automobile dependency;
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  • To coordinate between state and local government and inter-municipal and regional planning;
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  • To participate in community based planning and collaboration;
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  • To ensure predictability in building and land use codes; and
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  • To promote sustainability by strengthening existing and creating new communities which reduce greenhouse gas emissions and do not compromise the needs of future generations, by encouraging broad based public involvement in developing and implementing a community plan and ensuring the governance structure is adequate to sustain its implementation.
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OFP will review the information provided and evaluate the district’s conclusions. If OFP agrees with the district’s conclusions, the project approval will be issued in the normal course of business. If they disagree with the conclusions in the smart growth impact statement, or determine that the project justification for non-compliance is insufficient, or question the process followed to arrive at the conclusions, they may ask for additional information, or if necessary, reject the application and return it to the district for a more thorough smart growth review process.

 

In this regard, the Smart Growth process can be considered very similar to the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). OFP recommends that the district’s best course of action is to follow a “very open and public process to address all smart growth concerns during the SEQR process and mitigate any concerns to the extent practicable by changing the project design accordingly.” 

The new State Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Impact Statement form FP-SGIS can be found on the State Education Department’s website at the following location:

http://www.p12.nysed.gov/facplan/documents/DRAFTSGImpactStatementForm.xls.

 If you have any questions about these new requirements, please feel free to contact us at (315) 437-7600.

 

Excerpted from the July 2011 edition of "School Law Matters".  To view the entire newsletter, please click here.