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Q. 3, Short EAF (Part 2) Community Character

Short Environmental Assessment Form Workbook

Will the proposed action impair the character or quality of the existing community?


Many people define their community's character in very general terms: suburban, rural, urban, quiet, safe, scenic, or friendly are terms often used. Others describe community character only in terms of visual features. Community character is broader than this however.

Community character is defined by all the man-made and natural features of the area. It includes the visual character of a town, village, or city, and its visual landscape; but also includes the buildings and structures and their uses, natural environment, activities, town services, and local policies that are in place. Development can cause changes in several community characteristics including intensity of land use, housing, public services, aesthetic quality, and the balance between residential and commercial uses.

Applicable Part 1 Information

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


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

  • Will there be a change to the visual or architectural character of the broader landscape or streetscape, or will it introduce a different sized structure than currently exists?
  • Does it create a change in the nature and intensity of land uses in the area? (See your answer to Part 2 Question 2 for this)
  • Will there be a change in the nature of housing in the area, such as changing a single family neighborhood into a multi-family one, or change the affordability of housing?
  • Does it create the need for more public services such as parks, recreation facilities, police, or fire protection?

Will there be an impact?

Most proposed actions will result in some change in community character. There are probably few that will result in no change at all. Examples of actions that may not affect community character include passage of a local law that is not related to land use, or other discretionary actions that require SEQR but that do not result in building or development.

If, after evaluation of the above questions, you find that the proposed action will not affect visual character, intensity of land use, housing, or public services in any way, then there will be no impact to community character.

If a proposed project is going to change the character or quality of the community by impacting visual character, intensity of land use, housing, or public services, then there could be an impact to community character. In this case the impact must be evaluated as to size.

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. For additional information on the concept of reasonableness as it applies to SEQR, refer to section F in the Introduction of the SEQR Handbook (PDF) (1.9MB).

Small Impact

The following may result in small impacts:

  • The visual character of the area is changed in a minor way but is generally consistent in the design, placement, size, intensity and architecture of the neighborhood or community.
  • Demand on public services can be handled by existing resources.
  • The balance between retail commercial uses and residential uses does not change in a significant way.
Moderate to Large Impact

The following may result in a moderate to large impacts:

  • If the proposed project moderately or significantly changes the visual character of the area.
  • If it introduces a project that is of a larger scale than currently exists.
  • Demands on public services or housing will result in the need to extend existing services.

If the proposed project moderately or significantly changes the visual character of the area or if it introduces a project that is of a larger scale than currently exists, a moderate to large impact could occur. Similarly, projects that do place additional demands on public services, housing, or other characteristics, could also have moderate to large impacts.

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 4. 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 4.


Scenario 1: Adoption of zoning change that adds new permitted commercial uses in an existing 15 acre business district.

  • Located in an urban area
  • The existing water, sewer infrastructure and stormwater management facilities can handle the additional load
  • There is access to public transportation within a quarter-mile of the site and the road network is adequate to handle additional traffic in the district
  • The district is already built out, and the change in zoning is to allow additional uses of existing buildings

Then: The proposed action will not change the streetscape, will not demand more in public services, and will not change the intensity or nature of the district. There is not likely to be any impact on community character as the result of this action.

Scenario 2: Construction of a 55,000 square foot big-box style grocery store

  • It is located at the edge of a village on a state highway
  • It is adjacent to a locally designated historic district
  • It is proposed on a former agricultural field and the site is located within a scenic overlay district
  • There are no public water, sewer, or infrastructure facilities to this location

Then: The proposed action will significantly change the landscape from agriculture to commercial, the views of a valuable scenic resource will be changed, the historic character of the area could be impacted, and there will be a demand for extension of public services. Therefore, there is likely to be large impacts to community character as a result of this action.

Scenario 3: Construction of a water tower as part of a new residential subdivision.

  • It is proposed to be placed on a lot near existing residences in a suburban subdivision
  • The topography is hilly and open, with few trees
  • There are no other tall structures in the area and it will be visible from a majority of the houses in the subdivision

Then: The proposed action will not demand any public services, nor result in the need for additional housing. However, the proposed water tower will be highly visible in the neighborhood and residents are concerned about this. Therefore, there is likely to be moderate to large impacts to community character as a result of this action.

Back to Part 2 Impact Assessment || Continue to Question 4 - (Part 2)

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