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Decision No. 15,904

Appeal of JOHN GROARKE and AL MEINDL from action of the Board of Education of the Rockville Centre Union Free School District regarding the renovation and reconstruction of an athletic field.

Decision No. 15,904

(March 26, 2009)

Certilman Balin Adler & Hyman, LLP, attorneys for petitioners, John M. Wagner, Esq., of counsel

Law Offices of Ingerman Smith, L.L.P, attorneys for respondent, Joseph E. Madsen, Esq., of counsel

Petitioners object to the actions of the Board of Education of the Rockville Centre Union Free School District (“respondent”) relating to the planned renovation and reconstruction of the district’s South Side High School athletic field.  The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioners are district residents whose properties are situated in close proximity to the district’s South Side High School and associated athletic field.  On January 16, 2007, respondent adopted, subject to approval of appropriate contracts, a resolution approving a proposal to renovate and reconstruct the district’s South Side High School athletic field, including plans to install artificial turf, stadium lights, and handicap-accessible bleacher seating on the existing athletic field.

Respondent had determined that the proposal was a Type II action not subject to review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”) (6 NYCRR §617.5).  This appeal ensued.  Petitioners’ request for interim relief was denied.

Petitioners claim that respondent failed to comply with SEQRA by erroneously determining that the proposal was a SEQRA Type II action, exempt from environmental review. Petitioners argue that the proposal was really a SEQRA Type I action, requiring a more intense level of environmental review given the extensive nature of the proposed project.  Petitioners request a determination that respondent’s approval was based on insufficient evidence, was arbitrary and capricious, and in violation of SEQRA (6 NYCRR Part 167).

Respondent contends that its determination was correct and its actions were rational and reasonable.  Respondent argues that petitioners lack standing to bring this appeal and that the Commissioner lacks legal authority to adjudicate environmental issues.

In this case, petitioners request that I review the SEQRA determination made by respondent.  Article 8 of the Environmental Conservation Law does not authorize the Department of Environmental Conservation or any other administrative agency to review SEQRA decisions.  The sole mechanism for challenging a SEQRA decision is an Article 78 proceeding under the Civil Practice Law and Rules brought in State Supreme Court (Appeal of Mullen, 45 Ed Dept Rep 492, Decision No. 15,390).  Accordingly, the appeal must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.