Property Rights Foundation of America®
Founded 1994


(Warning! This list is incomplete. It is for public policy purposes only, and not to be relied on for jurisdictional determinations. Consult an attorney for any jurisdictional determination.)

Property owners who apply to the local building department for a permit to build or alter a structure on their land are rarely aware of the multiplicity of local, state and federal agencies potentially having jurisdiction. The local building department may fail to warn the property owner that another permit is required. It is currently not the responsibility of any agency to warn the property owner of this hazard of multiple jurisdictions. Later, the property owner may be fined and/or ordered to remove the new structure. Federal prison terms have been given for wetlands violations. There is no protection to the property owner for costs due to detrimental reliance on the local building department's granting of a permit.

The following list is for the purpose of demonstrating the complexity of jurisdictional determinations in the State of New York and the urgent necessity of establishing a clearinghouse on a state level to provide permit applicants at the local level with a list of potentially jurisdictional state and federal agencies. Local jurisdictions are doing a better job of providing the permit applicant with a list of potentially jurisdictional local agencies, but this could be improved.

Town, Village, City, or County Jurisdiction
The first two agencies on the list below have jurisdiction over all building projects, and over other projects at various times. A property owner may learn from the local town, village, or city about other agencies in that jurisdiction, but may not learn about those at the county level.

1. Building Department (Town, Village, City or County Jurisdiction)
Building permit, septic design. This agency may be at either the town-village-city or the county level.
- Environmental Impact Analysis (SEQRA), if applicable
- Also has local jurisdiction over federal flood insurance maps (FEMA maps) where DEC has turned over jurisdiction. - Usually enforces federal and state Scenic Byway restrictions, where a Scenic Byway has been designated.

2. Local Zoning Board (Town, Village, or City)
Local site plan review and zoning permits.
- Enforces Local Waterfront Rehabilitation Plan (LWRP) where enacted pursuant to the State Coastal Zone Management Act.

Additional Possible Permits, Depending Upon Locality:
3. Architectural Board
- Architectural review.
4. City Highway Department - Curb cuts.
5. County Planning Department - Development along a State Highway.
6. County Health Dept. - Drinking water, public health, inspection of eating facilities.
7. Fire Commissioner - Fire safety inspection.
8. Historical Preservation Board - Archeological, historical review.
9. Local Planning and Zoning Department - Compliance with zoning. Site plan review.
10. Parks Dept., Beautification Committee - Tree cutting. Other agency may have jurisdiction.

State and Regional (Non-Federal) Jurisdiction
1. Adirondack Park Agency
(12 counties within Adirondack Blue Line) - State zoning agency for the Adirondack region. Also jurisdiction over wetlands and Wild and Scenic Rivers in the region.
2. Fire Underwriters (Private agency) - Permit inspections for electrical installations and hookups.
3. Hudson River-Black River Regulating District - Permits for riparian rights and access, shoreline construction on the Sacandaga Lake and its tributaries as far south as Troy, N.Y.
4. Lake George Commission (2 counties) - State agency issuing permits for construction in and adjacent to Lake George
5. Long Island Pine Barrens Commission (2 counties on Long Island) - State land-use control agency for the Long Island Pine Barrens
6. NYS Canal Authority (NYS Thruway Commission) - State agency that issues permits to build docks and structures adjacent to and near waterways that drain into the Erie Canal.
7. NY City DEP (Dept. of Environmental Protection) (6 upstate counties within the New York City Watershed, but outside of NY City) - Jurisdiction over every septic system and jurisdiction over much other construction in watershed, also.
8. NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) - Construction related to NYS wetlands; NYS Wild and Scenic Rivers; pollutant discharge permits to waterways; air pollutant discharge permits; permits affecting NYS Endangered, Threatened and Rare Species and habitats; gravel and mineral extraction; gasoline storage; all environmental permits in many aspects, down to burn permits for backyard barrels. Maintains Natural Heritage program plant database on government and private land with The Nature Conservancy. SEQRA review, if applicable. (In part of the state, certain permit applicants go instead to the APA.)
9. NYS Dept. of Health (DOH) - Drinking water and septic systems, disease vector-related permits and inspections, restaurants, food-handling facilities.
10. NYS Dept. of Transportation (DOT) - Permits for curb cuts adjacent to State Highways.
11. NYS General Services Administration (GSA) - Permits to use riparian rights to waterways of the State of New York and to use the underwater lands owned by the State of New York.
12. NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation - Historical and archeological sites, SEQRA review.
13. St. Lawrence-Eastern Ontario Commission (2 - 3 counties) - Waterfont and riparian permits related to the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario in northwestern New York.

Federal or Multi-State Jurisdiction
1. Delaware River Basin Commission
- Located in West Trenton, N.J., has review powers over certain projects within the Delaware River basin. The Commission has issued regulations and reviews discharge projects (municipal and industrial waste water treatment plants) and water withdrawals.
2 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) - Jurisdiction over dams, hydropower, energy production. Hundreds of dams currently undergoing relicensing under FERC.
3. Great Lakes Water Conservation and Management Act - Requires permission from Governors of seven states to remove water from the watershed of the Great Lakes, including Lake George, Lake Champlain, and the St. Lawrence Seaway. (Example of jurisdiction would be a bottling plant or the piping of sewage into the Hudson River watershed involving water taken from Lake George). DEC is the New York State contact.
4. Susquehanna River Basin Commission - Located in Harrisburg, Pa., has water use jurisdiction over watershed lands in New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland. In the spring of 2000, the Commission notified 200 golf courses in the three states that, "for the first time, they must apply for a one-time permit averaging $3,000 to withdraw an average of 20,000 gallons of water per day in a 30-day period. In addition, golf courses were told they may have to pay for estimated water use back to 1993 as well as an annual fee of 13 cents per year per thousand gallons of water from now on.," according to the Binghamton Press and Sun Bulletin, April 4, 2000. The fee is for "users who take water from wells or surface water bodies without returning it to the basin because of evaporation, diversion or other factors. That charge can go back to 1971, when the commission was established," according to the article. According to the official regulations of the Commission, certain projects involving diversion of water from the basin and water quality impacts require a permit from the agency.
5. Upper Delaware River Scenic and Recreational River - New York and Pennsylvania, from the confluence of the east and west branches below Hancock, N.Y., to the existing railroad bridge immediately downstream of Cherry Island in the vicinity of Sparrow Bush, N.Y., administered by the Secretary of Interior, as depicted on the boundary map "The Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River," April 1978, except where modified. Properties located within the boundaries are inholders within the National Park System. National Park Service issues certain business permits. (The lower Delaware River Scenic and Recreational River to the south, begins at the north bounds of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area and extends to the banks of the river.)
6. United States Army Corps of Engineers - Permits to do construction or filling in federal wetlands, permits to do construction or to discharge pollutants or fill in waterways of the United States. Private landowners have served federal prison time for federal wetlands infringements involving dry land in one case and cleaning up a tire dump located in a city drainage ditch in another.
7. United States Environmental Protection Agency - Pollutant discharges, drinking water standards, mineral extraction. Redundant to NY State DEC in certain regulatory areas.
8. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Jurisdiction over construction that may affect Federal Endangered, Threatened and Rare Species or their habitat. Administers federal Wildlife Refuges. Intervenes in FERC dam relicensing proceedings.

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