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Q 17 - Full EAF (Part 2) Community Consistency

Full Environmental Assessment Form (FEAF) Workbook

The proposed action is not consistent with adopted land use plans.

General City Law § 28-a, Town Law § 272-a, Village Law § 7-722, and (for counties) General Municipal Law § 239d define and describe the legal aspects of comprehensive planning in NYS. These laws allow and encourage the adoption of comprehensive plans for all NYS municipalities, but do not require it. 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.

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.

Some plans are general in nature and do not make specific recommendations for individual locations in a community. Understanding whether or not a proposed activity is consistent with a municipality's comprehensive plan or other adopted plans provides a context for determining if the activity is compatible with the community's overall plans for development. Activities that are consistent with an adopted plan are less likely to result in impacts to community character or to the environment.

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, recommendations, and mapped land use plans may be included. For help in determining if your municipality has adopted land use plans, check their website, and contact the municipal clerk, code enforcement officer (or building inspector), or planning board clerk. Contacting local resources is the best way to identify adopted plans and to help you determine if a municipality has an adopted comprehensive plan.

If one or more adopted plans are in place, the reviewing agency should research the plan(s) and any accompanying maps in order to determine the goals and strategies that apply to the project site, and if there are any specific recommendations applicable to the project site. 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.

When reviewing adopted plans, pay special attention to the vision and goals, and the maps that may be included in the plan. 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. Some of the questions that may be helpful to evaluate this include:

  • How do the vision and goals described in these plans compare with various elements of the proposed project?
    • 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.

Note that Question 17 asks if the proposed project is NOT consistent with adopted plans. Reviewing agencies will need to first review the plans. Then you may need to ask and answer sub-questions (a) through (h) below, in order to determine if "the action is consistent with adopted land use plans". If, after reviewing those plans, you decide that the action IS consistent with the plan, then check "No" to this question and move to Question 18. However, if you find that the proposed action is NOT consistent with those plans, then answer sub-questions (a) through (h) to evaluate the size of potential impacts resulting from that inconsistency.

To answer this question

Review Part 1 questions C.1., C.2., and C.3.

Identifying potential impacts

The reviewing agency should evaluate the following sub-questions and decide if there will be any impact. If there will be an impact, the reviewing agency must then evaluate the magnitude of that impact, and decide if the impact will be small or moderate to large. 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.

  • If the proposed project exceeds a numeric threshold in a question, it is presumed to be a moderate to large impact.
  • If the proposed project does not exceed a numeric threshold in a question, the reviewing agency should consider the scale and context of the project in determining if an impact may be small or moderate to large.
  • These sub-questions are not meant to be exhaustive. The reviewing agency should use the "Other impacts:" sub-question to include any additional elements they feel need to be analyzed for potential impacts.

a. The proposed action's land use components may be different from, or in sharp contrast to, current surrounding land use pattern(s).

The land use components in this question refer to the proposed use, dimensions of the lot, dimensions and location of all structures, setbacks, size of the structure(s), accessory uses, and overall scale and intensity of the proposed project. For example, a proposed 150,000 square foot warehouse with 20 loading docks would likely have land use components that include the structure itself, parking areas, signs, driveways, a new traffic light, fencing, landscaping, and outdoor lighting. If that warehouse was proposed in an industrial district surrounded by other similar scaled land uses, then the action would not be different or in sharp contrast to the current land use pattern. However, if that same warehouse was proposed on a former agricultural field surrounded by single-family houses, then the project would be different from and in sharp contrast to the current land uses.

Consider 'surrounding' to mean those land uses adjacent to the project site, those within the same zoning district, if one exists, or those within 1,500 feet.

Applicable Part 1 Information

C.2., C.3., D.1.a., E.1.a., and E.1.b.

Analysis

  • What is the scale and size of the project site in comparison to current land uses?
    • Is the structure larger?
    • Taller?
    • On a different lot size?
    • Of a very different land use?
    • Of an architectural design that is in sharp contrast?
    • Sited on the parcel in a very different manner?
  • Is the intensity of the proposed similar or different from surrounding uses?
    • Will there be more people at the site than surrounding uses?
    • More traffic?
    • More structures on the lot and less green space than others?

Will there be an impact?

If all land use components that are part of the proposed project are consistent in their use, dimensions of the lot, dimensions and location of all structures, setbacks, size of the structure(s), accessory uses, and overall scale and intensity with current land use patterns then there likely will be no related impacts. Check 'No, or small impact may occur.'

Small Impact:

A small impact could occur if:

  • The proposed project is not consistent with surrounding land use patterns, but the community has specifically zoned the area for those new uses and the project is consistent with those community laws and goals.
Moderate to Large Impact:

A moderate to large impact could occur if:

  • The proposed project is not consistent in its proposed use, dimensions of the lot, dimensions and location of all structures, setbacks, size of the structure(s), accessory uses, and overall scale and intensity with existing land uses and local laws and plans encourage maintenance of such existing uses.

b. The proposed action will cause the permanent population of the city, town or village in which the project is located to grow by more than 5%.

A population increase of 5% or more has many implications for a community. It may mean there is need for additional water and sewer infrastructure, new roads, new schools, or additional municipal services. Such population increases also bring new building: there will be a need for more residences and businesses to serve them. All of these could result in significant adverse environmental impacts.

If the answer to this question is 'yes', then review other sections of Part 2 to evaluate the potential impacts of that population increase. In particular, review your decisions from Part 2, questions 3k, 4a, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, and 15. Those questions directly evaluate whether there will be increased demands for services and impacts resulting from new building.

Applicable Part 1 Information

C.2., C.4., D.1.c., D.1.f., many D.2. questions, especially D.2.c., D.2.d., D.2.e., and D.2.j.

Analysis

  • Where will the new population live?
    • In already developed locations?
    • In new housing developments?
  • Will there need to be new transit systems, roads, or other similar infrastructure?
  • Will that growth induce additional residential or non-residential growth?
  • Are there jobs in the municipality to support that population or will those people commute to different locations?
  • Is the water and sewer system, and other public services such as schools adequate to support that population growth?

Will there be an impact?

If the project does not include any population growth, then there will be no related impact. If it is likely to increase permanent population the reviewing agency will need to evaluate the other sections of Part 2 to determine if there will be direct or indirect adverse impacts due to that increase. If there is a population increase, and all other areas explored in Part 2 are deemed 'no impact', then it is possible the determination for this question would also be 'no impact'. If however, that population growth does cause other impacts, then the reviewing agency will need to determine if that is a small or moderate to large impact. It is likely that a large population growth would result in some impacts that should be explored in the environmental review. See Part 2, Question 17 (e) as that is where you can review changes to density that may be less than a 5% population increase, but that still might affect infrastructure or other community resources.

Small Impact:

A small impact could occur if:

  • The proposed project will cause a minor increase in population but there is adequate infrastructure, housing, services, and capacity in the municipality to accommodate that growth without the need for increasing capacity. The increase does not have cumulative adverse impacts.
Moderate to Large Impact:

A moderate to large impact could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • A proposed project that results in a population growth that exceeds 5% of the current municipal population.
  • A proposed project that results in any population growth that would result in the expansion or creation of new infrastructure, housing, services, or other municipal capacity to accommodate that level of growth.

c. The proposed action is inconsistent with local land use plans or zoning regulations.

d. The proposed action is inconsistent with any County plans, or other regional land use plans.

Zoning is one land use technique used to help implement a municipality's comprehensive or other land use plans. 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.

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.

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.

Some counties and regions have adopted county-wide comprehensive plans. Other county or regional level plans to be aware of include agriculture and farmland protection plans, local waterfront revitalization plans, open space plans, transportation plans, housing plans, economic development plans, watershed or other water quality protection plans, or recreation plans.

Applicable Part 1 Information

C.2., and C.3.

Analysis

  • Is the project consistent with the vision and goals established in those plans or zoning laws?
    • Is it likely that the proposed project will prevent the municipality from attaining those vision and goals?
  • Do any strategies, recommendations, maps, or other actions in the plans address the proposed land use or location?
    • If so, how, and is the project consistent with those?
  • Is the proposed project a land use that was anticipated and encouraged in the plan(s)?
  • Does the proposed project meet all zoning and other land use regulations?
    • Are any variances or zoning changes required?
    • Are those variances area variances or use variances?
      • Both types of variances may mean that the project is not consistent with local regulations.

Will there be an impact?

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. If the proposed project is completely consistent with the adopted land use plans and zoning in the community, then there will not be any related adverse impacts. Check 'No, or small impact may occur.'

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.

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.

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:

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. 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.

e. The proposed action may cause a change in the density of development that is not supported by existing infrastructure or is distant from existing infrastructure.

f. The proposed action is located in an area characterized by low density development that will require new or expanded public infrastructure.

Density refers to the number of residential dwelling units or the number of non-residential uses in an area. Low density development is typically seen in rural areas, small villages, hamlets, and some suburban areas.

These questions explore whether the proposed project will result in a change in density that will require new or expanded infrastructure. Infrastructure includes such things as water, sewer, new or upgraded roads, sidewalks or paths, and solid waste facilities. When a project requires new or expanded infrastructure, it not only has direct effects on the environment due to land disturbance, but can also affect taxes, the fiscal health of a community, and future growth. Once infrastructure is in place, new land uses typically follow. In many places, residential growth does not bring in adequate tax dollars to support the infrastructure needed to support it. Thus, infrastructure itself is a growth inducement that could impact the environment in the short and long-term.

Applicable Part 1 Information

C.3., C.4., D.1.c., D.1.d., D.1.f., D.2.c., D.2.d., D.2.j., D.2.k., D.2.s., and E.1.b.

Analysis

  • Will new or expanded infrastructure be needed?
    • If so, what and where?
    • What are the fiscal implications of this expansion?
  • What environmental impacts would result from construction of that infrastructure?
  • Are there land, water, or other resources available to support that expansion?
  • Will that expansion result in the potential for future growth beyond the proposed project?
    • If so, what impacts may that have?

Will there be an impact?

If no new or expanded infrastructure is necessary to support the proposed change in density then there will be no related impact. Check 'No or small impact may occur.'

Potential Impacts:

There are many impacts that could occur related to expansion or development of new infrastructure in any area. In addition to impacts from land disturbances and changes to community character that changes to density can bring to an area, there may be impacts on surface or groundwater and transportation. If new or expanded infrastructure is required to support a project, then it is suggested that those impacts would be considered moderate to large.

Small Impact

Projects that require additional external sidewalks or other pedestrian facilities, an extension of an existing road, addition of a turning lane or traffic light, or upgrading a private road to public road standards are examples of impacts that could be considered small depending on the scale and context of the proposed project.

Moderate to Large Impact:

Extension or creation of sewer or water lines, creating new public infrastructure districts, and construction of new roads would all be considered moderate to large impacts, especially if that infrastructure allows additional growth to occur.

A moderate to large impact could also occur if the proposed project induces growth at a level that requires additional infrastructure beyond those identified above as small impact.

g. The proposed action may induce secondary development impacts (e.g., residential or commercial development not included in the proposed action)

This question explores the potential growth inducing aspects of a proposed project. A project may foster economic or population growth, or result in an increase in land use in a geographic area if it is establishes essential public services, provides for economic expansion (construction of additional housing, changes in revenue base, employment expansion, etc.), is precedent-setting such as a zoning change, and develops or encroaches on an isolated or adjacent area of open space.

Applicable Part 1 Information

C.2.a., C.3., C.4., D.1.c., D.1.d., D.1.f., D.2.c., D.2.d., D.2.j., D.2.k., D.2.s., and E.1.b.

Analysis

  • Will the project foster similar or additional residential or commercial development in the future?
  • Will the project make it easier for other land uses to move into the area in the future?
  • Will public infrastructure be established that future growth could take advantage of?
  • Does the project promote economic growth that could have secondary impacts such as construction of additional housing?
  • Was a zoning change needed so that the proposed project sets a new precedent for future growth in the area?
  • Is the proposed project located in an undeveloped area of the community that could become a target for additional growth in the future?

Will there be an impact?

If there are no secondary, or growth inducing, aspects of the proposed project, then there will be no related impacts. Check 'No, or small impact may occur.'

Small Impact:

Additional growth could occur but roads and other public infrastructure, schools, municipal services, etc. all are below capacity and there will be no new or extension of infrastructure necessary. Note that there may need to be additional studies or evaluation to determine how much additional growth could occur and this information may not be available from Part 1. The reviewing agency could request this information if needed. Or, if there is possibility that the existing community capacity could not accommodate the potential induced growth, the reviewing agency should indicate impacts from induced growth as a potential moderate to large impact. This would then be further explored in Part 3.

Moderate to Large Impact:

A moderate to large impact could occur if the proposed project induces growth at a level that requires additional infrastructure, community services, or if it would be at a density or type of land uses that changes the community character.

h. Other:

There may be other impacts identified by the reviewing agency that are not addressed by the above questions. If so, they should be identified and briefly described here.

Some proposed actions may have beneficial impacts on the environment. The reviewing agency can use the 'other' category for that purpose, too.

Back to Part 2 (FEAF) Identification of Potential Project Impacts || Continue to Part 2 (FEAF) Question 18 Consistency with Community Character


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