Kent, Auburn Adopt Maximum Allowable SEPA Exemption Thresholds

The cities of Kent and Auburn have each adopted new SEPA categorical exemptions that will minimize the costs and delay associated with redundant environmental reviews under the State’s Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).  In each case, the City Council vote to approve the changes was unanimous. 

Cities are authorized to make these changes to their local development codes as a result of amendments to state law that were approved by the State Legislature.  When SEPA was first passed in the 1970’s, it was the only significant environmental regulation in the state. But over time, the regulatory environment has expanded to include Critical Area Ordinances, Clearing and Grading ordinances, stormwater regulations and NPDES permitting requirements, to name just a few. As a result, the original SEPA requirements have become redundancies on some kinds of smaller developments that add unnecessary costs and delays in bringing new housing to the market.

The Kent City Council adopted the maximum allowable SEPA exemption thresholds on December 9, 2014 and the ordinance became effective on January 8, 2015. The ordinance will save the city, business, and homebuilders both time and money. The City’s cost of administering SEPA is estimated to be $88,000 annually; local engineering firms generally charge around $1,000 to complete a basic SEPA checklist, and city fees for reviewing applications are around $2,100.

In Auburn, increasing from 4 to 9 the number of lots allowed to be processed as a “short plat,” rather than requiring all applications for more than 4 lots to be processed as a “(long) subdivision” will allow for staff efficiencies, and is projected to save approximately $4,660 per short plat in permitting costs.