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Legislators vote down $10 million office plan

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LOWVILLE — The Lewis County Legislature on Tuesday rejected plans to build a proposed $10 million county office building on Outer Stowe Street in a 6-4 vote.

Newly seated Legislator Craig P. Brennan, R-Copenhagen, paused before casting his vote, noting he had to vote for what his constituents wanted.

“Two weeks is not enough time to totally educate yourself,” he said after the meeting. “I had to listen to the voice of my constituents. I didn’t have a great sampling, but over a majority who spoke told me they didn’t want this. I agree it’s not right at this time.”

Legislators Paul M. Stanford, D-Watson, William J. Burke, R-West Lowville, John O. Boyd, D-New Bremen, Philip C. Hathway, R-Harrisville, and Chairman Michael A. Tabolt, R-Croghan, also voted no.

Just before the vote on the building, the board voted 8-2, with only Mr. Stanford and Mr. Hathway opposed, to accept an amended negative declaration for the project’s state environmental quality review.

Following the meeting, Legislator Jerry H. King, R-West Leyden, said, “I’ll support my board in the decision, but we’re not going to find efficiencies in these other buildings.”

The county has in the past considered purchasing other commercial space. Several county offices are presently located in leased spaced in a downtown building that is for sale.

Mr. King was joined by Jack T. Bush, R-Brantingham, Patrick F. Wallace, R-Lowville, and Richard C. Lucas, R-Barnes Corners, in voting to approve the project.

On Monday, the village of Lowville delivered a five-page letter to legislators that said the environmental quality review for the building had not been adequately considered and the project was being rushed through without village input.

“The village wants to hold us hostage,” Mr. King said.

In the letter, the village outlined several unresolved issues, including an inadequate traffic study and a yet-to-be analyzed sewer study. The road and sewer issues caused the village to pass a moratorium last week on sewer hook-ups until officials felt comfortable with the project.

The letter also accused the county of ignoring the village’s request to be included in the review. Lead agencies must notify any potentially involved or interested agencies within 30 days of the review.

After receiving the letter, the Department of Environmental Conservation was contacted by engineers for the project from Bernier & Carr, said County Attorney Richard J. Graham.

The county was listed as lead agency and the DEC as a “potentially involved agency,” which was then amended in the SEQR.

Regulations define an “involved agency” as one “that has jurisdiction by law to fund, approve or directly undertake an action.”

The regulation also defines an ”interested agency” as “any agency that lacks the jurisdiction to fund, approve or directly undertake an action but wishes to participate in the review process because of its specific expertise or concern about the proposed action.” An interested agency has the same ability to participate in the review process as a member of the public.

Mr. Graham said the village “by definition” does not need to be included in the SEQR, “but have been treated as an involved agency.”

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