Of the waterfront's many attributes, its scenery is perhaps the most universally appreciated. Scenic resources are a major component of community character, and special landscape features and views contribute to a community's visual quality. In order to protect community character, the scenic characteristics of the waterfront and community should be considered when making planning and development decisions.
Scenic Assessment Program
The DOS Office of Planning, Development and Community Infrastructure developed a scenic assessment program that identifies the scenic qualities of coastal landscapes, evaluates them against criteria for determining aesthetic significance, and recommends areas for designation as Scenic Areas of Statewide Significance (SASS). The process of designating an area as a SASS includes submission to the NYS Secretary of State, who is authorized to designate a SASS following a rigorous evaluation of the scenic quality of a coastal region to identify what portions should be designated. Municipalities can use their local land use authority to protect scenic resources including using the scenic areas narratives guidance in their Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP).
SASS designation protects scenic landscapes through review of projects requiring State or federal actions, including direct actions, permits, or funding. Policy #24 of the State Coastal Management Plan is “Prevent impairment of scenic resources of statewide significance.” When considering proposed actions that could affect a scenic area of statewide significance the agency must consider whether the action would be likely to impair the scenic beauty of the identified resource. Impairment could include, for example, irreversible modification of geologic forms; destruction or removal of vegetation; modification or removal of structures; and addition of structures that would reduce views or diminish the scenic quality of the resource.
Six Scenic Areas of Statewide Significance have been designated in the Hudson River Valley coastal region. Each area encompasses unique and highly scenic landscapes that are accessible to the public and recognized for their outstanding quality. Nine areas totaling more than 25,000 acres within the Town and Village of East Hampton on Long Island’s East End are also designated as SASSs. The information in the SASS designations could easily be applied in other regions and could be modified to assess scenic quality in an individual community.