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D. SEQR and Municipal Annexations

In This Section You Will Learn about:

  • SEQR and municipal annexations.

1. Are municipal annexations subject to SEQR?

Yes. The determinations of public interest that must be made by municipalities pursuant to Article 7 of the General Municipal Law, prior to granting or denying an annexation petition, involves the weighing and balancing of social, economic and environmental factors. Municipal annexation decisions are, therefore, discretionary decisions requiring SEQR review. Annexations of 100 or more contiguous acres are classified as Type I actions; annexations involving less than 100 acres are classified as Unlisted actions, unless some other aspect of the action triggers Type I review.

Annexation is typically associated with potential changes in land use or need for public services that may be more readily available from one municipality than another. Municipal decisions on annexation are similar in their consequences to rezoning decisions; both decisions have the potential to change land use patterns and require a hard look at the consequences of the whole action. In the case of an annexation, only after examination of these SEQR concerns, among other factors, can the question of public interest be fully addressed.

2. At what point in the annexation process should SEQR be applied?

SEQR should be applied at the time the initial petitions for annexation are presented to the involved municipalities, and prior to the joint municipal public hearing required under General Municipal Law. If an EIS is required, it should be made available as a draft for public review prior to the joint public hearing. The joint hearing can also serve as a SEQR hearing.

3.Can annexations associated with development proposals be reviewed separately from such development?

No. Although annexation petitions often will be the first elements of an overall action presented, annexation considerations cannot be segmented from the SEQR analysis necessary for the whole action. Moreover, an annexation approved without considering the environmental impacts of the associated development may be unwise, if it turns out that the development is not feasible.

4. What if details of future development are not known?

If the annexation petitioners are not committed to a specific development proposal, or if several parts of the area have undefined development potential, a generic EIS may be appropriate. A generic EIS would allow both the petitioners and reviewers to evaluate potential impacts of a variety of project proposals.

5. What factors should be considered in establishing lead agency for an annexation?

Although state and county agencies occasionally have involvement with some aspect of specific projects associated with annexations, the most appropriate lead agency is likely to be from one of the involved municipalities. Major considerations are the agency's:

jurisdiction over activities in the proposed annexation; jurisdiction over environmental impacts which may occur outside the proposed annexation due to activities within it (e.g., traffic congestion and waste generation); and the municipal ability to assess and mitigate anticipated environmental impacts.

If no development activities requiring discretionary decisions by other agencies are anticipated within the proposed annexation, only the municipal legislative boards would be involved agencies and eligible to serve as lead. All other considerations being equal, the most logical choice for lead agency is the agency which has had the longest standing jurisdiction within the area. This is normally an agency of the municipality from which the annexed parcel may be taken.

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