BUFFALO, N.Y. — The recommendation remains the same but Erie County lawmakers officially have a SEQR, or State Environmental Quality Review, for a new Bills stadium that is finalized.
With every 'i' dotted and all draft documents updated according to Majority Leader Tim Meyers, approval by the full legislature is expected to happen next week when they meet on Thursday, Jan. 19.
"It is my expectation that there will be a vote and it's my expectation it will go through," Meyers told 2 On Your Side Thursday during the latest meeting of the county legislature's Energy and Environment Committee.
It's been several weeks since a summary of the SEQR findings was presented to the committee, which had a lot of questions at the time but appeared ready to accept the report's recommendation.
The report found no significant environmental impacts that would prevent stadium construction.
The team that produced the SEQR report was led by Erie County and overseen by Phillips Lytle LLP. Their job was to compare the current environmental impact of Highmark Stadium to a future stadium across Abbott Road. Impacts that were considered were light pollution, storm runoff, aesthetics, traffic, utility demands, and more.
A vote could have happened as soon as Thursday, December 15 one week after the report was first presented to committee members, but it was pushed back twice.
During that time additional items were added and/or finalized, however. They include revised environmental assessment forms, responses to NYSDOT comments, an updated traffic management plan, and a final letter of resolution that binds the parties involved to historic and archeological standards.
"We did have additional fieldwork that was done by the Bills for archeological investigation, that update has been filed with you," said Adam Walters, an attorney with Phillips Lytle LLP.
These were mostly housekeeping items, Walters explained, with no impact on their recommendation to lawmakers, although several committee members including Legislator John Bargnesi asked for clarity.
"Is it then your recommendation to this board that we will approve the negative declaration?" Bargnesi said.
Walters responded: "The record shows that there are no significant adverse environmental impacts from the development of a new stadium. Remember the baseline and we talked about this last time is the existing stadium and frankly, a whole number of things get much better because it will be a state-of-the-art stadium built to modern standards."
With the SEQR process seemingly destined for approval, 2 On Your Side asked Meyers how the overall stadium deal and the Community Benefits Agreement are coming along.
"You have to remember this is an enormous project but I think once this goes through this will be a good indicator that everything is getting closer to moving on and that's where we want to be," Meyers said.