City looks to raise SEPA standards

Published on Thu, Jul 31, 2003 by Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

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City looks to raise SEPA standards

By Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

The city of Blaine is looking to raise State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) thresholds in an effort to develop a better process for better development. However, some residents are concerned the changes will negatively affect the community.

“In the city’s continuing effort to create a straight forward, uncomplicated permit review process, the raising of SEPA thresholds for specific construction activities is just one element of that effort,” city planner Russell Nelson said. “The new SEPA thresholds would lead to the removal of redundancy in the permit review process without compromising the community’s environmental integrity.”

The city council reviewed the planning commission’s SEPA proposal last month, but sent it back to the planning commission.

“The council sent it back to the planning commission, essentially saying the standards could be higher,” said Terry Galvin, Blaine’s community development director. “We’ve used the lowest possible threshold since the early 70s when this (SEPA) was created.”

There are now a plethora of additional regulatory constraints that are required, Galvin and Nelson said, including shoreline and land disturbance regulations. Thus the raising of the SEPA thresholds, they believe, is not as bad as some in the community think.

The proposed SEPA thresholds include: the construction or location of any residential structures of 10 dwelling units; the construction of an office, school, commercial, recreational, service or storage building with 10,000 square feet of gross floor area, and with associated parking facilities designed for 30 automobiles; the construction of a parking lot designed for 30 automobiles; and any landfill or excavation of 250 cubic yards throughout the total lifetime of the fill or excavation.

Lincoln Rutter, president of the Semiahmoo Pointe Homeowners Association, addressed the council Monday evening, calling for the city to look more into the subject.

“I’m here to tell you there are a lot of people concerned,” Rutter said about the standards. “I believe this whole subject needs a lot of attention. The idea of raising the SEPA thresholds are a threat to the community. For SEPA levels to be meaningful they have to be sized to the community they’re in. When you eliminate SEPA or render it meaningless, you don’t have much to fall back on. It’s almost a joke.”

Resident Cindy Smith also spoke to the council, and asked them to keep the community more informed. “I have attended planning commission meetings,” she said, “but I think the city needs to post meeting information on the city website.”

The next SEPA action will likely take place at the next city council meeting on Monday, August 11 at city hall at 7 p.m.

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