The Business Council opposes this legislation that would put restrictions on a wide range of state economic development initiatives, under the guise of “smart growth.” The bill applies to approvals and funding decisions by thirteen specified state and multistate agencies – including ESDC, UDC, DEC and DOT – and “all other New York authorities.”
However, the exact scope of these new decision-making requirements is unclear, meaning the criteria for approving and assisting new economic development investments will be unclear as well, further impairing new investments and jobs in New York State.
Our concerns include the following:
- It applies new “smart growth” requirements on state approval, financing or other assistance for “public infrastructure projects,” without defining what constitutes “public infrastructure,” and therefore what would be covered and exempted from this review process.
- In order to approve or provide assistance to an “infrastructure project,” these state agencies would have to “attest” that the project meets ten broad sets of criteria “to the extent practicable.” These include criteria to promote projects in undefined “developed areas." Other criteria are not really applicable to project-specific decision making, like promoting public involvement in community planning. As a result, it will be difficult if not impossible for developers – or state officials, for that matter - to know with any amount of certainty or consistency what projects may be approved under this bill.
- This bill could preclude state assistance for major new private sector investment projects if they require any level of “public infrastructure” investment. Often, a project developer will select a previously undeveloped site to avoid issues of site clearance and environmental evaluation and remediation – steps that can add significantly to the cost and time required to complete projects. It is unclear how – or whether – such projects would be approved if they are not located in a “municipal center” or “developed area.”
- In many instances, projects proposed in “municipal centers” and “developed areas” are strongly opposed by local residents based on concerns about disproportional impacts – on traffic, on air emissions, on remaining open space, and other factors. It is unclear how these smart growth criteria that will push new projects into already developed area will interact with competing disproportional impact concerns.
While The Business Council appreciates the development and application of “smart growth” principles, state policy needs to achieve a balance of economic development and environmental objectives. Moreover, it needs to assure that statutory and regulatory requirements are clear and consistent. We believe this legislation fails to achieve these fundamental policy objectives. For these reasons, we do not support approval of S.5560-B (Oppenheimer)/A.8011-A (Hoyt).