Chapter 18.115


18.115.010    Purpose of this section and adoption by reference.

18.115.020    Flexible thresholds for categorical exemptions.

18.115.030    Use of exemptions.

18.115.040    Environmental checklist.

18.115.050    Mitigated DNS.

18.115.010 Purpose of this section and adoption by reference.

This section contains the rules for deciding whether a proposal has a probable significant, adverse environmental impact requiring an environmental impact statement (EIS) to be prepared. This section also contains rules for evaluating the impacts of proposals not requiring an EIS. The city adopts the following sections of Chapter 197-11 WAC by reference, as supplemented in this section:

    WAC 197-11-300    Purpose of this Part.

    -305    Categorical Exemptions.

    -310    Threshold Determination Required.

    -315    Environmental Checklist.

    -330    Threshold Determination process.

    -335    Additional information.

    -340    Determination of Non-Significance (DNS).

    -350    Mitigated DNS.

    -355    Optional DNS process.

    -360    Determination of Significance (DS)/Initiation of Scoping.

    -390    Effect of Threshold Determination.

(Ord. 00-015 § 2 (part), 2000)

18.115.020 Flexible thresholds for categorical exemptions.

A.    The city establishes the following exempt levels for minor new construction under WAC 197-11-800(1)(b) based on local conditions:

1.    For residential dwelling units in WAC 197-11-800(1)(b)(i): up to twenty dwelling units.

2.    For agricultural structures in WAC 197-11-800(1)(b)(ii): up to ten thousand square feet.

3.    For office, school, commercial, recreational, service or storage buildings in WAC 197-11-800(1)(b)(iii): up to twelve thousand square feet.

4.    For parking lots under WAC 197-11-800(1)(b)(iv): up to thirty-nine spaces.

5.    For landfills and excavations in WAC 197-11-800(1)(b)(v): up to five hundred cubic yards.

6.    For modifications to preliminarily approved developments that result in an increase in the intensity of land use (i.e., increase of density, parking spaces, square footage), the threshold for categorical exemption shall be an increase in intensity equal to the minimum threshold identified in subsections (A)(1) through (5) of this section.

B.    Whenever the city establishes new exempt levels under this section, it shall send them to the Department of Ecology Headquarters Office, Olympia, Washington 98504 under WAC 197-11-800(1)(c). (Ord. 15-04 § 37, 2015: Ord. 14-07 § 10 (part), 2014: Ord. 00-015 § 2 (part), 2000)

18.115.030 Use of exemptions.

A.    Each department within the city that receives an application for a license or, in the case of governmental proposals, the department initiating the proposal, shall determine whether the license and/or the proposal is exempt. The department’s determination that a proposal is exempt shall be final and not subject to administrative review. If a proposal is exempt, none of the procedural requirements of this title apply to the proposal. The city shall not require completion of an environmental checklist for an exempt proposal.

B.    In determining whether or not a proposal is exempt, the department shall make certain the proposal is properly defined and shall identify the governmental licenses required (WAC 197-11-060). If a proposal includes exempt and nonexempt actions, the department shall determine the lead agency, even if the license application that triggers the department’s consideration is exempt.

C.    If a proposal includes both exempt and nonexempt actions, the city may authorize exempt actions prior to compliance with the procedural requirements of this title, except that:

1.    The city shall not give authorization for:

a.    Any nonexempt action,

b.    Any action that would have an adverse environmental impact, or

c.    Any action that would limit the choice of alternatives;

2.    A department may withhold approval of an exempt action that would lead to modification of the physical environment, when such modification would serve no purpose if nonexempt action(s) were not approved; and

3.    A department may withhold approval of exempt actions that would lead to substantial financial expenditures by a private applicant when the expenditures would serve no purpose if nonexempt action(s) were not approved. (Ord. 00-015 § 2 (part), 2000)

18.115.040 Environmental checklist.

A.    Except as provided in subsection C of this section, a completed environmental checklist (or a copy), in the form provided in WAC 197-11-960, shall be filed at the same time as an application for a permit, license, certificate, or other approval not specifically exempted in this title; except, a checklist is not needed if the city and applicant agree an EIS is required, SEPA compliance has been completed, or SEPA compliance has been initiated by another agency. The city shall use the environmental checklist to determine the lead agency and, if the city is the lead agency, for determining the responsible official and for making the threshold determination.

B.    For private proposals, the city will require the applicant to complete the environmental checklist, providing assistance as necessary. For city proposals, the department initiating the proposal shall complete the environmental checklist for that proposal.

C.    For projects submitted as planned actions under WAC 197-11-164, the city shall use its existing environmental checklist form or may modify the environmental checklist form as provided in WAC 197-11-315. The modified environmental checklist form may be prepared and adopted along with or as part of a planned action ordinance; or developed after the ordinance is adopted. In either case, a proposed modified environmental checklist form must be sent to the Department of Ecology to allow at least a thirty-day review prior to use. (Ord. 00-015 § 2 (part), 2000)

18.115.050 Mitigated DNS.

A.    As provided in this section and in WAC 197-11-350, the responsible official may issue a DNS based on conditions attached to the proposal by the responsible official or on changes to, or clarifications of, the proposal made by the applicant.

B.    An applicant may request in writing early notice of whether DS is likely under WAC 197-11-350. The request must:

1.    Follow submission of a permit application and environmental checklist for a nonexempt proposal for which the department is lead agency; and

2.    Precede the city’s actual threshold determination for the proposal.

C.    The responsible official should respond to the request for early notice within the notice of application time frame identified in BGMC 17.200.080. The response shall:

1.    Be written;

2.    State whether the city currently considers issuance of a DS likely and, if so, indicate the general or specific area(s) of concern that is/are leading the city to consider a DS; and

3.    State that the applicant may change or clarify the proposal to mitigate the indicated impacts, revising the environmental checklist and/or permit application as necessary to reflect the changes or clarifications.

D.    As much as possible, the city should assist the applicant with identification of impacts to the extent necessary to formulate mitigation measures.

E.    When an applicant submits a changed or clarified proposal, along with a revised or amended environmental checklist, the city shall base its threshold determination on the changed or clarified proposal and should make the determination within fifteen days of receiving the changed or clarified proposal:

1.    If the city indicated specific mitigation measures in its response to the request for early notice, and the applicant changed or clarified the proposal to include those specific mitigation measures, the city shall issue and circulate a DNS under WAC 197-11-340(2).

2.    If the city indicated areas of concern, but did not indicate specific mitigation measures that would allow it to issue a DNS, the city shall make the threshold determination, issuing a DNS or DS as appropriate.

3.    The applicant’s proposed mitigation measures (clarifications, changes or conditions) must be in writing and must be specific. For example, proposals to “control noise” or “prevent stormwater runoff” are inadequate, whereas proposals to “muffle machinery to X decibel” or “construct two hundred-foot stormwater retention pond at Y location” are adequate.

4.    Mitigation measures which justify issuance of a mitigated DNS may be incorporated in the DNS by reference to agency staff reports, studies or other documents.

F.    A mitigated DNS is issued under WAC 197-11-340(2), requiring a fourteen day comment period and public notice.

G.    Mitigation measures incorporated in the mitigated DNS shall be deemed conditions of approval of the permit decision and may be enforced in the same manner as any term or condition of the permit, or enforced in any manner specifically prescribed by the city.

H.    If the city’s tentative decision on a permit or approval does not include mitigation measures that were incorporated in a mitigated DNS for the proposal, the city should evaluate the threshold determination to assure consistency with WAC 197-11-304(3)(a) (withdrawal of DNS).

I.    The city’s written response under subsection C of this section shall not be construed as a determination of significance. In addition, preliminary discussion of clarification or changes to a proposal, as opposed to a written request for early notice, shall not bind the city to consider the clarifications or changes in its threshold determination. (Ord. 00-015 § 2 (part), 2000)