DEC Proposes Amendments To SEQRA Regulations, Part Five: Additions To The Type II List – Zoning and Variances

Earlier this year, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation ("DEC") proposed amendments to the regulations implementing the State Environmental Quality Review Act ("SEQRA”), currently codified in 6 NYCRR Part 617. This the fifth post in our series examining the proposed amendments.  The focus of this post is the Type II list of actions, particularly proposals to relating to zoning and variances.

As noted in previous posts, Type II actions (Part 617.5) are actions or classes of actions “which have been determined not to have a significant effect on the environment and which do not require environmental impact statements.”  The goal is to accelerate the SEQRA review process by categorically excluding actions that almost invariably receive negative declarations.

The proposed amendments add a variety of zoning-related actions to the Type II list.  This includes: (1) expanding the exemption for individual lot line and setback variances to include all “lot line adjustments and area variances not involving a chance in allowable density;” (2) certain minor subdivisions under the municipality’s subdivision regulations; (3) redevelopment of certain previously disturbed sites already served by public infrastructure; and (4) “in a city, town or village with an adopted zoning law or ordinance, reuse of a commercial or residential structure where the activity is consistent with the current zoning law or ordinance.”  Another notable change under the proposed amendments is that the recommendation of a county or regional planning entity made following referral of an action pursuant to General Municipal §§ 239-m, 239-n would not be subject to SEQRA review.

The proposed amendments also include several provisions addressing acts that benefit the public.  For example, the amendments would designate both the dedication of parkland, as well as an agency’s acquisition of less than one hundred acres of land to be dedicated as parkland, as Type II actions.  Similarly, the amendments would add “the transfer or conveyance of five acres or less by a municipality or a public corporation to a not-for-profit corporation for the construction or rehabilitation of one, two or three family housing.”  This provision, entitled “Certain Transfers of Land to Provide Affordable Housing,” is meant to facilitate transfers to organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and comparable organizations.

There are other zoning-related provisions, but for brevity these are not addressed here.  However, full descriptions and rationales can be found in the Final Draft of the proposed amendments, available at the link below.

DEC will hold a public hearing on the regulations on March 31, 2017, and be accept comments on the proposed amendments until May 19, 2017. Drafts of the proposed amendments and additional information on submitting comments is available on the DEC website.

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