After Two Years of Discussion, SEQRA Form Revisions Fall Short
After considerable input from environmental groups and the business community, including the Westchester County Association, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has at long last issued revised Environmental Assessment Forms required for development project applications. After a two-year process, changes were made to both the full, or long EAF, used for applications with potentially significant environmental impact, and the short EAF, used for projects smaller in scope.
It was not worth the wait.
The new forms, made effective Oct. 7, may instead discourage applications for new projects, said Frank McCullough and Seth Mandelbaum, senior partner and partner, respectively, at McCullough, Goldberger & Satadt L.L.P., and members of the WCA’s Economic Development Task Force SEQRA Subcommittee. The WCA created the SEQRA subcommittee in 2011 and has been meeting with state officials to identify procedures and areas in the law that should be considered for modification.
McCullough and Mandelbaum applauded new resources the DEC is providing including EAF workbooks and new web-based tools, but they took issue with increased burdens on property owners, developers and investors. The new application forms are more onerous, they said, with the new short EAF looking more like the previous full EAF, and the new full EAF resembling a mini-Environmental Impact Statement. In addition, the full EAF requires the applicant to submit more detailed information than ever before.
In New York State, planning boards and other public agencies must comply with strict procedures, mandated by SEQRA, to review and assess the potential environmental impacts from proposed projects prior to public approval or funding. Problem is, the process can add delays and costs to projects, stifling business and discouraging development.
“Preserving the environment is a worthy goal,” said Marissa Brett, executive director for WCA’s BLUEPRINT for Westchester. “But we believed that could be done while simplifying the SEQRA process. These new burdens will have a negative effect on Westchester’s economic development and could mean a loss of jobs over time.”