The SEPA review is the environmental analysis required under state law to determine if there will be significant impacts, and if so, whether they can be mitigated.
In December, the city determined there would be no significant impacts from its proposed CAO changes. Much of this was premised on the fact that there would no changes to the wetland buffers or mitigation ratios.
But on August 10th, 17 days before a public hearing, it quietly issued a SEPA Addendum, determining that it was going to eliminate wetland buffers for lower value, small wetlands under 1000 square feet in certain cases, and that would increase wetland mitigation buffers in some but not all the situations recommended by DOE. (This is despite new science from the EPA in January showing that small, unconnected wetlands often have the high ecosystem function and need more protection, rather than less.)
The Addendum is intended to update facts and analysis that do not impact the analysis regarding significant impacts. When you change buffers and mitigation ratios, you are making significant changes with significant impacts. In other words, these are matters that could exceed the scope of the Addendum process.
So why did the city use this? Because under the Addendum process, the city is not required to provide public notice or seek public input and it did neither, even though it is strongly encouraged to do so. The fact that this is being done in the context of a GMA update makes it even more inappropriate. The Addendum process allowed the city to rush through the new SEPA process in time for a planning commission hearing on the 27th of this month. In reality, the CAO should have informed the population and employment figures chosen last week, but the city has been trying to piece meal through the entire update process.
The city is misleading the planning commission and the public about the truth. It’s proposed CAO is actually weaker than the one that exists. I will be posting more about the numerous abuses committed by a city blinded in its arrogant belief that it beyond being held accountable to the public.