State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA)andGrowth Management Act(GMA) November 6, 2007 David Osaki Community Development Administrator City of Auburn
SEPA - GMAHistorical Context Both SEPA and GMA are Washington State laws. • SEPA - 1971 (Era of strong environmental ethic/concern over the environment (e.g. NEPA (1969), Earth Day (1970))(Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE); www.ecy.wa.gov) • GMA - 1990 (late 1980’s period of rapid growth in this Puget Sound region) (Washington State Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development (CTED); www.cted.wa.gov)
Washington State Growth Management Act (GMA) • 1990 - Growth Management Act (GMA) enacted. • Amended several times since (evolving). • Controversial - Statewide repeal effort/ Property rights’ initiatives have been defeated. • Certain GMA provisions apply to all local governments in the State; other provisions apply to only portions of the State (based on county and cities and towns within that county)
GMA Concepts • GMA includes 14 Statewide Planning Goals. • Concentrate Growth within defined Urban Growth Areas (UGA’s) • Preservation of Rural Areas • Public facilities provided concurrent with growth. • Planning coordination amongst jurisdictions, especially within counties • Assigned population allocation
Who Plans under GMA and for what? • Critical Areas Ordinances (CAO) • All counties/cities/towns in the State must adopt a CAO • GMA Comprehensive Plans and GMA Development Regulations • 18 counties required to plan under the GMA • 11 counties have “opted” in voluntarily
Who Prepares GMA Plans/Regulations? I. REQUIRED - County that has a population of 50,000+ and, A. Until May 16, 1995, has had its population increase by more than 10% in the previous ten (10)years or, B. On or after May 16, 1995, has had its population increase by more than 17% in the previous ten (10) years, and the cities located within such county, and any other county II. REQUIRED - Regardless of its population, a County that has had its population increase by more than 20% in the previous ten (10) years, III. OPT IN - The county legislative authority of any county that does not meet either of the sets of criteria above may “opt in”.
Critical Area Ordinances (CAO) • GMA seeks to protect the environment and enhance the state's high quality of life. • CAO are regulations that specifically protect certain natural features from the impacts of development. Must address: • Fish and wildlife habitat areas • Wetlands • Aquifer recharge areas • Frequently flooded areas • Geologically hazardous areas. • CAO’s are a primary regulation in the State to protect these environmental features.
GMA Comprehensive Plans & Development Regulations • Under GMA, a Comprehensive Plan is the key document that provides the framework and policy direction for how a community will grow and develop. • GMA requires that “development regulations” be adopted (that implement and must be consistent with comprehensive plans)
GMA Comprehensive Plans Required Comprehensive Plan “Elements” • Land Use (distribution of land uses) • Housing (accommodate needs of various income levels) • Capital Facilities (publicly owned facilities such as water, sewer, parks, fire to support growth) • Transportation(levels of service) • Utilities (private utilities, gas, electricity, cable) • Rural (for counties only) Optional Comprehensive PlanElements (examples) • Historic Preservation, Economic Development, Environment, Parks Plan Amendments • Comprehensive Plans may only be amended one time per year (ensure cumulative impacts are reviewed).
GMA Development Regulations • Must be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan • Examples of Development Regulations include (but are not limited to): • Zoning (uses and bulk) • Subdivision (division of land) • Critical areas (protect wetlands, streams, steep slopes) • Shoreline Management Act • Design Review (e.g. architectural review)
GMA and Permitting • GMA “Regulatory Reform” • Expedite permit decisions. • Establishes specific requirements and for processing permits, including maximum timelines and limits on public hearing/testimony. • Avoid revisiting decisions made at the plan/regulation level.
GMA is an on-going Planning Process • Requires updates of comprehensive plans/development regulations. • Requires Six-Year Capital Facilities Plans (typically annually updated to identify how necessary public improvements will be provided to address growth). • Permitting constantly subject to GMA requirements.
Current GMA Planning Policy Issues • Concurrency/urban growth areas • Transportation Funding • Affordable Housing • Expansion of urban growth areas
SEPA History • Enacted in 1971 • Followed NEPA (1969) • Tool to better allow government agencies to address environmental impacts of proposal • Major source of regulatory authority for local jurisdictions until GMA and critical areas regulations (1990-91)
What is SEPA? • Framework for agencies to consider the environmental consequences of a proposal before taking action. • Allows the public to participate in decisions by government. • Tool for decision-making. • Gives agencies the ability to condition or deny a proposal due to identified likely significant adverse impacts.
When is SEPA environmental review required? • Proposal involving a government "action” that is not “exempt” (SEPA lists exempt actions) • “Actions” can be: A. “Project” Action - Site specific development proposal. (e.g. office building) B. “Non-Project” Action - Proposed local government adoption of a regulation or plan, including amendments to codes or plans.
Who is responsible for doing SEPA environmental review? • “Lead agency" The agency responsible for conducting the environmental review for a proposal and appropriately documenting that review (DNS, DS/EIS, adoption, addendum). (Lead agencytypically a city or county – governmental agency that issues the permit and/or can approve the action)
SEPA Process Analyzes Impact of Action onElements of the Environment Q. What items get analyzed during SEPA? A. Natural Environment and Built Environment (see environmental checklist) NATURAL ENVIRONMENT ELEMENTS 1. Earth 2. Air 3. Water 4. Plants 5. Animals
SEPA Process AnalyzesImpact of Action on Elements of the Environment (cont) Built Environment Elements 6. Energy and Natural Resources 7. Environmental Health (e.g. Noise) 8. Land and Shoreline Use 9. Housing 10. Aesthetics 11. Light and Glare 12. Recreation 13. Historic and Cultural Preservation 14. Transportation 15. Public Services 16. Utilities
SEPA Process Review Environmental Checklist • Preparation/Submittal of a SEPA Checklist to lead agency (may be supplemented w/ special studies i.e. traffic study) • The lead agency must: • Review and analyze checklist • Consider the impacts of the proposal on elements of the environment and • Make a “threshold determination”
Evaluate Impacts and, if necessary Identify and Require Mitigation “Impacts” - The effects or consequences of actions on the elements of the environment. SEPA focuses on “probable significant adverse environmental impacts.” “Mitigation” - Reducing an impact below a level of being a probable significant adverse impact. This can be done by: • Avoiding the impact altogether by not taking a certain action or parts of an action. • Limiting the scale or scope of a project. • Taking affirmative steps to avoid or reduce impacts. • Repairing, rehabilitating, or restoring the affected environment. • By replacing, enhancing, or providing substitute resources or environments.
SEPA ProcessLead Agency Issues “Threshold Determination” Generally takes three (3) forms: 1. Determination of Non-Significance (DNS)– Lead agency concludesproposed Action hasno probable adverse significant impacts. 2. Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance (MDNS)– Lead agency concludesproposal has significant impacts, but impacts can be mitigated (mitigation measures). 3. Determination of Significance (DS) -Lead agency concludes proposal has significant impacts that require detailed analysis. EIS required.
SEPA involves the Public • Threshold Determination provides for Public Notice (Commonly mailings and newspaper) and formal public comment period. • Based on public comment (or lack thereof), the threshold determination may or may not be revised by lead agency. • Threshold determination may be appealed (Local jurisdiction sets its own appeal procedures – often to court.)
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) • Used when significant adverse impacts are expected that need to be analyzed. • Involves “Scoping” - Public process to determine elements of the environment and alternatives that will be studied in the EIS. • Based on analyzing reasonable alternatives, including a “No Action” alternative that serves as a baseline. • How do impacts vary based on different alternatives? • How are impacts of different alternatives “mitigated”?
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) – cont. • Involves issuance of a Draft EIS with a public comment period - typically 30 to 45 day comment period. • Final EIS includes written response to public comments. It also includes any additional analysis deemed appropriate. • FEIS is used by decision-makers (may or may not include a “preferred alternative”)
On going issues • Do we need SEPA any more? Yes – Every site/proposal is unique and requires individual environmental review. SEPA also allows for public input/public process on development proposals. No - Our experience over time with SEPA has helped us develop better regulations. It has just become an unnecessary process. Using SEPA to mitigate adverse impacts (MDNS) is now the exception rather than the rule. • SEPA/GMA Integration - making the two work together better.