golf courses are not only heavy users of pesticides, they are
also held up as the standard for suburban lawns. The goal of the
Organic Golf project is to prove that golf courses can be maintained
organically, and thereby demonstrate that all turf can be maintained
without chemical pesticides.
The Neighborhood Network
Organic Golf Project has aggressively sought to address the potential
ground water contamination impacts from the pesticides used on
golf courses. After more than ten years of the project and two
successful lawsuits to block golf courses, for the first time,
the organization came out and publicly supported a particular
golf course proposal, called: the Sebonack Golf Club, which will
be located near the Peconic Bay in Southampton.
In hearings held by
the Southampton Town Board, the Neighborhood Network executive
director Neal Lewis testified in favor of the golf course because
of their plan to build and maintain the golf course using non-chemical
or organic methods. The Sebonack Golf Club -- led by the Pascucci
family who should be commended -- was approved by the Town in
early 2004, with construction to begin in 2005.
Network Program Director Chris O'Connor, golf legend Jack
Nicholas, and Neighborhood Network Executive Director Neal
Lewis, at the site of proposed organic Sebonack Golf Club.
"We have always
insisted that we are not anti-golf, we are just opposed the the
chemicals used to maintain golf turf," said Lewis before
the Town Board. "However, this is only the first time that
we have actually come out and supported a golf course project."
He continued, "this golf course will be the first on Long
Island to be 100% pesticide-free, and we intend to hold it out
as a example to be followed for all types of lawns."
Golf courses are generally
a challenge to maintain. The goal of the Organic Golf Project
is to prove that even under such difficult conditions -- turf
can be maintained without chemicals.
In a lawsuit brought
by the Neighborhood Network along with a local environmental group
in the Town of Stony Point, in Rockland County, the appellate
division established a precedent requiring a full Environmental
Impact Study (EIS) to evaluate a chemical-free turf maintenance
program, or an "organic golf" approach, prior to the
construction of a new golf course. Previously (August 2000), the
Suffolk County Legislature approved a settlement of a similar
lawsuit brought by the Neighborhood Network which allows for two
18-hole golf courses in Yaphank that would be maintained using
Read more details about
these lawsuits and other efforts of the Neighborhood Network to
promote organic golf below.
article from 2003 reported on an agreement between a golf course
developer and environmental groups including the Neighborhood
Plan Out of Rough - Golf deal struck at Friar's Head
(Newsday, July 1, 2003)
than three years of fighting - a battle that kept one of Long
Island's most impressive golf courses from opening - developers
and environmentalists reached a truce over Traditional Links at
the two sides agreed on things such as limiting the use of pesticides,
using organic fertilizers to build up the soil and keeping houses
out of the heart of the unspoiled woods."
This article and the
Environmentalists Find Course Up to Par" (Newsday,
July 7, 2003) highlight the Neighborhood Network's efforts in
partnership with the Long Island Pine Barrens Society and the
North Fork Environmental Council to work with the developers of
the new Traditional Links Golf Course to reach a compromise which
resulted in the construction of a golf course with a turf management
plan which emphasizes the use of organic methods and materials
in favor of chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. The
editorial board specifically recognized the contributions of the
Neighborhood Network, North Fork Environmental Council, and the
Long Island Pine Barrens Society, stating that "this outcome
at least shows that, if environmentalists and business folks talk,
they can reach real solutions."
The Neighborhood Network
has been contacted by activist working in other states, from Massachusetts
to Hawaii, for information about the Organic Golf project, and
ways to eliminate pesticides from golf courses. We are planning
to respond to the many inquiries received from off Long Island
by developing a national clearinghouse for information related
to organic golf.
Settlement Leads to Agreement for
Organic Golf Courses In Suffolk County
A key component of
the Neighborhood Network's strategy in promoting organic
golf courses has involved legal challenges. One such lawsuit against
Suffolk County was successful and resulted in a settlement
to build 2 organically maintained golf courses in Yaphank, NY.
Working off this victory, the Neighborhood Network has approached
other Long Island municipalities with a detailed plan to design
an organic golf course in order to avoid a protracted battle.
deal sets stage for 2 organic courses
Newsday; Long Island, N.Y.; Aug 10, 2000; Emi Endo. STAFF WRITER;
With the ambitious
goal of setting a new standard for organic premier golf courses,
Suffolk lawmakers have approved a project for pesticide-free courses
Two 18-hole golf courses
to be built by private developers on county land will be free
of chemical pesticides under a settlement approved by legislators
early yesterday morning.
The agreement ends
two years of litigation brought by an environmental group over
whether the county had adequately considered building organic
golf courses. The Long Island Neighborhood Network successfully
sued to block the use of pesticides, causing the project to be
"We're on the
cutting edge here-there truly are no organic golf courses"
locally, said Neil Lewis, the group's executive director and attorney
who brought the lawsuit.
One of the courses,
called a "signature golf course" will be top- quality
and will charge more for admissions. The idea, according to Assistant
County Attorney Robert Garfinkle, is to prove to developers that
"they can build and maintain chemical-free golf courses"
that are economically viable.
Under the terms of
the settlement, which the parties hope a State Supreme Court justice
will approve in the coming days, the golf courses on about 285
acres bounded by Horseblock Road, the Long Island Expressway and
Yaphank Avenue, will "be constructed and managed organically
to the greatest extent feasible." Synthetic chemical pesticides
could be used only in an emergency with the approval of the county
The county will set
up an environmental review committee to oversee the pest control
The committee, which
will include a representative from the Long Island Neighborhood
Network and county departments including health and parks, will
meet regularly and hold public hearings.
Suffolk also will retain
an environmental consultant with expertise in soil ecology and
microbiology who will be paid by the developer. Groundwater monitoring
wells will be installed.
The county wants the
project to include a driving range, a putting green, clubhouse,
pro shop and 300 parking spaces. It also wants the developer to
build 10 soccer fields with about 150 parking spaces on about
20 acres nearby.
Garfinkle said the
county soon will issue requests for bids to build the Yaphank
courses and expects to receive at least several responses. If
the bidding process is completed within the next 2 1/2 months,
he said, construction could begin by next spring and the courses
could open two years after that.
Appeals Court Ruling Sets Precedent for
New Golf Courses
Halts Golf Course
In a case brought by
the Neighborhood Network on behalf of homeowners
and an environmental group in the Town of Stony Point (Rockland
County), a major victory was achieved on February 25, 2002, when
the New York State Appellate Division, Second Department issued
a precedent-setting desicion. The Court ordered the Town of Stony
Point to complete an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before
work can continue on the Town's proposed municipal golf course.
This appeals court victory builds on an earlier victory of the
Organic Golf project in Suffolk (see above). This is the first
case based on New York's State Environmental Quality Review
Act (SEQRA) to reach the Appellate level, which dealt with
pesticide use on a proposed golf course. The unanimous ruling
by the four judge panel is potentially historic, as it sets a
precedent for environmental review of new golf courses throughout
the down-state region. This decision will be covered in upcoming
issues of the Landscaper, and Golf Course News,
a national publication for golf course professionals.
Click here to read
about the ruling in the Journal News.
Click her for the Neighborhood
Network's press release on the legal victory.
The decision of the
Appellate Division follows.
version of the Appelate Division decision.
COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK
APPELLATE DIVISION : SECOND JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT
Argued - January 31, 2002
FRED T. SANTUCCI, J.P.
MYRIAM J. ALTMAN
ANITA R. FLORIO
GLORIA GOLDSTEIN, JJ. Doc. # 2000-11686
In the Matter of S.P.A.C.E., et al., Appellants,
Steven Hurley, et al., Respondents.
DECISION & ORDER
Neal M. Lewis, Massapequa, N.Y., for Appellants.
Frank J. Phillips, Stony Point, N.Y., for Respondents.
In a proceeding pursuant to CPLR article 78 to review a determination
of the Town Board of the Town of Stony Point in the form of a
negative declaration pursuant to the State Environmental Quality
Review Act (ECL 8-0101 et seq.), the petitioners appeal, as limited
by their brief, from so much of a judgment of the Supreme Court,
Rockland County (Meehan, J.), dated November 17, 2000, as denied
the petition and dismissed the proceeding.
ORDERED that the judgment is reversed insofar as appealed from,
on the law, with costs, the petition is granted, the determination
is annulled, and the matter is remitted to the Town of Stony Point
Town Board for the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement
and such further proceedings consistent with the State Environmental
Quality Review Act as it deems appropriate.
This appeal concerns the proposed construction of a municipal
golf course in the Town of Stony Point. The site, a 295-acre parcel
of land, is comprised of a large expanse of wooded areas. There
are Federal wetlands, but no State-regulated wetlands, on the
site. The proposed golf course runs over an aquifer, which serves
as a drinking-water source for the private wells of several homeowners
who live across from the eastern boundary of the proposed site.
Among other things, the proposed project entails the removal of
70 acres of forested land.
The Town of Stony Point, as lead agency for the project, performed
an environmental assessment of the project, designated as a Type
I action, pursuant to SEQRA. In an "Expanded Full Environmental
Assessment Form" (emphasis supplied) (hereinafter Expanded
Full EAF), which called for the assessment of the impact of the
project and the magnitude of the impact on, among other things,
the land, air, plants, wildlife, water quantity and quality, and
public health, only "small to moderate" impacts were
identified. None of the impacts were rated as "potential
large". Nonetheless, the Expanded Full EAF discussed various
mitigation measures that would be undertaken to minimize the effects
of, for example, erosion, increase in stormwater runoff, pesticide
contamination, and the elimination of .35 acre of Federal wetlands.
Following public hearings and comments, and a review of the Expanded
Full EAF, the Town issued a negative declaration, determining
that the project would have no significant environmental impact,
and therefore, the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement
(hereinafter EIS) was not required.
The primary purpose of SEQRA is to "inject environmental
considerations directly into governmental decision making"
(Akpan v Koch, 75 NY2d 561, 569; Matter of Coca-Cola Bottling
Co. v Board of Estimate, 72 NY2d 674, 679; see, Matter of Omni
Partners v County of Nassau, 237 AD2d 440; Matter of West Branch
Conservation Assn. v Planning Bd. of Town of Clarkstown, 207 AD2d
837, 838). It "insures that agency decision makers - enlightened
by public comment where appropriate - will identify and focus
attention on any environmental impact of proposed action, that
they will balance those consequences against other relevant social
and economic considerations, minimize adverse environmental effects
to the maximum extent practicable, and then articulate the basis
for their choices" (Matter of Jackson v New York State Urban
Dev. Corp., 67 NY2d 400, 414-415; see, Matter of West Branch Conservation
Assn. v Planning Bd. of Town of Clarkstown, supra). To this end,
SEQRA mandates the preparation of an EIS when a proposed project
"may include the potential for at least one significant environmental
effect" (Matter of UPROSE v Power Auth. of State of New York,
285 AD2d 603; see, Matter of Silvercup Studios v Power Auth. of
State of New York, 285 AD2d 598; 6 NYCRR 617.7[a]). The heart
of SEQRA is the EIS process (see, Matter of Jackson v New York
State Urban Dev. Corp., supra; Matter of West Branch Conservation
Assn. v Planning Bd. of Town of Clarkstown, supra). Because the
operative word for triggering an EIS is "may", there
is a relatively low threshold for the preparation of an EIS (see,
Matter of UPROSE v Power Auth. of State of New York, supra; Matter
of Omni Partners v County of Nassau, supra). Moreover, SEQRA regulations
provide that a Type I action, such as the proposed action here,
carries the presumption that it is likely to have a significant
adverse effect on the environment, and may require an EIS (see,
6 NYCRR 617.4[a]).
In this case, a review of the Expanded Full EAF reveals several
areas of possible significant environmental impact in connection
with the proposed project. These include a potential significant
effect on wetlands, wildlife, water quantity and quality, erosion,
flooding, and drainage. In identifying various mitigation measures
which would be undertaken to minimize the adverse effects to the
environment posed by the project, the Town Board implicitly acknowledged
that the effects were significant (see, Matter of West Branch
Conservation Assn. v Planning Bd. of Town of Clarkstown, supra,
at 840-841). Therefore, a positive declaration should have been
issued and an EIS should have been prepared. Even an "Expanded
Full EAF" cannot "legitimately serve as a substitute
for an EIS and the attendant analysis and public discussion entailed
in a proper SEQRA review" (Matter of West Branch Conservation
Assn. v Planning Bd. of Town of Clarkstown, supra, at 840). To
confirm the negative declaration would permit the circumvention
of SEQRA's open and comprehensive review process (see, Matter
of Merson v McNally, 90 NY2d 742). Consequently, we conclude that
the Town Board's determination was not made in accordance with
lawful procedure and was arbitrary, capricious, and irrational
(see, Akpan v Koch, supra).
SANTUCCI, J.P., ALTMAN, FLORIO and GOLDSTEIN, JJ., concur.
James Edward Pelzer
This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication
in the Official Reports. Decided on February 25, 2002