Council votes to raise SEPA threshold

Published on Thu, Aug 14, 2003 by Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

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Council votes to raise SEPA threshold

By Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

The city of Blaine raised State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) thresholds at the last city council meeting, but not without listening to a few concerned citizens first.

The topic of SEPA has been on the table for several months now, going through numerous planning commission and city council meetings. The council voted in favor of raising the threshold. Council member Bruce Wolf was absent.

The SEPA threshold that passed states that the following types of construction shall be exempt, except when undertaken wholly or partly on lands covered by water: the construction or location of any residential structures of ten dwelling units; the construction of an office, school, commercial, recreational, service or storage building with 10,000 square feet of gross floor area, and with associated parking facilities designed for 30 automobiles; the construction of a parking lot designed for 30 automobiles; and any landfill or excavation of 250 cubic yards throughout the total lifetime of the fill or excavation.

City attorney Jon Sitkin said the community is raising the threshold because the environmental issues of 30 years ago are addressed in many different issues and regulations today. �There is a layering of regulations that exist today that didn�t exist then,� he said. �You get a lot of confusion.�

The threshold, he said, does not apply to platting or division of land.

In comparison to other areas, Blaine currently has lower thresholds than many communities throughout the county.

�Relative to others (community)...for the most part the majority are at maximum levels with some exceptions,� community planner Russell Nelson said, as he compared Blaine to other communities in Whatcom County and Puget Sound area, including Bellingham, Sumas, Port Townsend and Everett.

The new threshold states Blaine�s dwelling units can increase from four to 10. The communities of Everson, Nooksack, Lynden and Ferndale all have 20 dwelling units. Bellingham currently has nine and Sumas has four.

The threshold also states that Blaine will increase to 10,000 square feet and 30 spaces of commercial construction and parking spaces, from 4,000 square feet and 20 spaces. And as for fill and/or excavation, that will increase to 250 cubic yards from 100.