By Benjamin Joe
News came out on Aug. 8 that Double C Realty Inc., owner of property north of Colonial Drive in the Town of Niagara, had submitted a draft scoping document to the Town of Niagara Town Board. In response, the board has scheduled a public scoping meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20, to gather public input.
Formerly, Double C Realty faced opposition for its proposed development known as Bri Estates by a resident group calling itself Concerned Citizens of the Towns of Niagara/Lewiston.
“We’re still here, we’re still in the fight,” Paul Torrey one of the primary members of the group said. “We just have to see what the process brings.”
Torrey said he was interested to know what kind of changes the development company would bring to the meeting. He noted there were 10 to 15 items that prompted the board to declare an environmental impact study from Double C was necessary before any moves forward could be made by the company in September 2018.
Corey Auerbach, an attorney with the Barclay Damon who was procured by the town to assist with Bri Estates legalities more than a year ago, continues to be a part of the proceedings. He spoke with The Tribune earlier this week.
Auerbach explained recent changes in regulations made it mandatory for the town to proceed with a scoping process when an environmental impact statement was called for.
“The scoping process is intended to focus review of the potential significant adverse environmental impacts, to eliminate nonsignificant impacts, to identify what information is needed in the environmental impact statement, to identify the range of alternatives to the proposed development, to identify mitigation measures, and also to allow the public to engage and participate in the environmental review process,” Auerbach said.
Auerbach noted the “draft scope” is typically prepared by the applicant, in this case Double C Realty.
“An applicant prepares a first draft of the scope, and the scope is essentially like a table of contents of what will be in the environmental impact statement,” Auerbach said. “The outline, or the draft scope is then presented to the lead agency (the Town of Niagara Town Board).”
“Although the scoping process is mandatory,” Auerbach continued, “it’s not mandatory that the lead agency hold a public scoping meeting. However, the Town of Niagara thought it was important to allow the public an opportunity to provide their comments at a public meeting, so, they have scheduled a public scoping session to receive input from anyone who’s interested in the project as it relates to the draft scope that was prepared by the applicant.”
Auerbach also explained that there is also an opportunity for residents and other members of the public to comment after the meeting is through.
“There will be an opportunity for written testimony or written comments that will continue on after the Aug. 20 meeting,” he said. “On Aug. 20, that’s an opportunity for people to appear before the Town Board and give their input or make suggestions about the contents of the draft scope. That period will remain open for people to submit additional written comments even after the public scoping session is concluded.”
To put it simply, Auerbach explained, Double C Realty has submitted a draft scoping document, and the Town of Niagara Town Board is required to review and change it as they see fit to create a final scoping document, and for public input, has scheduled a public scoping meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 20.
“All of the involved agencies and the public are afforded an opportunity to provide their comments,” Auerbach said. When this is accomplished, the board will revise the draft, and may include further studies, and additional information that the board wants to see in the environmental impact study.
“The lead agency (Town of Niagara Town Board) can then revise the draft scope and will provide a final scope that will be given back to the applicant (Double C Realty) to inform the preparation of their draft environmental impact study,” Auerbach said. “Even though the draft scope is prepared by the applicant, it’s really the lead agency’s document that they will finalize and return back to the applicant. Then the applicant must provide a draft environmental impact study that includes all of the information and studies and discussion of impacts that are in the final scope.”