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Q 1 - Short EAF (Part 2) Zoning Regulations

Short Environmental Assessment Form Workbook

Will the proposed action create a material conflict with an adopted land use plan or zoning regulations?

Background

A comprehensive plan identifies the goals, objectives, principles, guidelines, policies, standards, and strategies for the growth and development of the community. It is not a law in itself, but New York State statutes require that all land use laws in a municipality be consistent with a comprehensive plan. There are other plans that have land use components as well. These include open space plans, economic development plans, local waterfront revitalization plans, agriculture and farmland protection plans, stream management plans, or main street plans.

Some plans are general in nature and do not make specific recommendations for individual locations in a community. Others are very specific and text or maps exist indicating exactly what is planned for a particular location. In order to answer this Part 2 question, the reviewing agency should become familiar with what, if any plans exist, and what the vision, goals, recommendation, and mapped land use plans may be included.

Zoning is one land use technique used to help implement a municipality's comprehensive plan. It is a locally adopted law that regulates the types of land use, the density of land use, and the size and siting of structures. When a municipality has a comprehensive plan, zoning and other land use laws must be adopted in accordance with that plan. Some communities have a comprehensive plan, but no zoning. Note that in municipalities where there is little or no advanced planning, using SEQR as a substitute for community planning is not appropriate. Lead agencies should not use the environmental assessment form as a place to make up for lack of plans or regulations.

Applicable Part 1 Information

Some of the Part 1 questions that should be specifically reviewed when answering this question are:

Analysis

In order to decide if impacts will occur, the reviewing agency should look at the available information and ask:

  • Does the community have an adopted comprehensive plan, land use plan, or master plan?
    • Pay special attention to the vision, goals and maps that may be included.
  • How do the vision and goals described in these plans compare with various elements of the proposed project?
  • Does the community have an adopted open space plan, economic development plan, local waterfront revitalization plan, agriculture and farmland protection plan, stream management plan, or main street plan?
  • Do any elements of the proposed project conflict the vision, goals, and strategies outlined in any of these adopted plans?
  • Does the community have an adopted zoning law?
    • Check the zoning map, use schedule, and bulk/dimension information and compare to see if the project is consistent with those requirements.
  • Will the proposed project require an area variance, and if so, how large?
  • Will the proposed project require a use variance?
  • Will the proposed project require a change in the zoning law?

Will there be an impact?

Sometimes a community has neither a comprehensive plan nor zoning. Others have an adopted plan, but no zoning, while still others have both.

If there are no adopted land use plans, zoning, or other land use regulations in the community, there is nothing for the project to be consistent with. In that case, check the "No or Small Impact may occur" box for this question and move on to Question 2.

When an adopted plan and zoning, or some combination exists, the proposed project needs to be evaluated to see if it is consistent with them. If zoning exists, an action would be considered consistent if it is a permitted use or a specially permitted use, and meets all zoning requirements for that use and district. When a comprehensive plan exists, an action would be considered consistent if it is not in conflict with the stated vision, goals, recommendations or land use concept map. In that case, check the "No or Small Impact may occur" box for this question and move on to Question 2.

However, if a project requires a zoning change or an area or use variance, or is in conflict with the stated vision, goals, recommendations, or land use concept map of a comprehensive plan, then the proposed action is inconsistent, and the reviewing agency will need to evaluate whether this inconsistency is small or moderate to large. There may be instances where the proposed action is consistent with a plan and not zoning, or vice versa. In that case, some impact may occur and the reviewing agency should evaluate whether this is a small or moderate to large impact.

If there is an impact, how big will it be?

If there will be an impact, the reviewing agency must then evaluate the magnitude of that impact. This will depend on the overall scale and context of the proposed project as described in the Introduction to Part 2. The reviewing agency should be reasonable when conducting this review.

Small Impact

A small impact could occur if a minor area variance is required because the lot size, building height, or setback requirements cannot be met.

Moderate to Large Impact

If a use variance is required, or the project needs one or more area variances because it cannot meet the required dimensions (for example, the project cannot meet any of the dimension requirements), then it is more likely the project is less consistent with local plans and laws, and a moderate or large impact could occur.

A moderate to large impact could occur if the proposed action is largely or totally incompatible with the land use plans or zoning in the community. Check "moderate to large impacts may occur" on the Part 2 table for this question if any of the following circumstances exist. It is likely that one or more moderate to large impacts could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • A use variance is required.
  • Significant area variances are required (for example, none of the lot, height, or setback requirements are met)
  • No zoning exists, but the proposed action introduces a use into an area that is in conflict with what the community plan establishes for that area.

Recording your decision

If you have determined that there are no impacts, or that only a small impact may occur, no further analysis of this topic is needed. Simply check the box under "No, or small impact may occur" next to the question and move on to Question 2. You may choose to include an explanation in Part 3 as to why you decided there were no, or only small impacts, but you are not required to do so.

If you have determined that one or more moderate to large impacts may occur, then additional analysis of this impact will be required in Part 3. You should note what the impacts are, and the reasoning that lead to your decision before moving on to Question 2.

Examples

Proposed Action:

Construction of a 12,000 square foot building to be used as an antique car repair facility.

Scenario 1

  • The proposed project is in a community that has no comprehensive plan or zoning.

Then: The action would not be in conflict and therefore, the reviewing agency would check "no or small impact may occur".

Scenario 2

  • The proposed project is in a community that has a comprehensive plan, but no zoning.
  • The comprehensive plan is general, but establishes the need for small scale businesses to be encouraged throughout town.

Then: The action would not be in conflict and therefore, the reviewing agency would check "no or small impact may occur".

Scenario 3

  • The proposed project is in a community that has both a comprehensive plan and zoning.
  • The comprehensive plan includes, and the zoning district allows for commercial structures, and specifically allows auto repair facilities.
  • However, in order to fit on the parcel, the building is proposed to be 15 feet closer to the property line than called for in the zoning.

Then: Because there is a proposed setback that does not meet the zoning requirements, a small area variance would be required, this could potentially be a small impact.

Scenario 4

  • The proposed project is in a community that has both a comprehensive plan and zoning.
  • The zoning district allows commercial structures, but does not allow any car repair facilities.

Then: The action would be in conflict because it is a use that is not an allowed use and a use variance would be required. This could be a moderate to large impact.

Back to Part 2 Impact Assessment || Continue to Question 2 - (Part 2)


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