The notice is a requirement of the State Environmental Policy Act (also known as SEPA, pronounced sea-pah). SEPA is a an environmental information process, providing for public review of potential environmental impacts and providing decision makers information they need for determining whether to approve a project or not. When a new development, ordinance or comprehensive plan is proposed, State law requires the City to review it for potential impacts to the environment, housing and public facilities. The Planning Manager, acting as the SEPA Responsible Official, reviews the proposal and makes one of three possible determinations:
- The proposal will probably not have a significant impact on the environment. In this case a "Determination of Non-Significance" (DNS) is issued and the proposal may proceed with obtaining necessary permits.
- The proposal will probably have a significant impact on the environment that can reasonably be reduced by the proponent so that it is no longer significant. In this case, a "Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance" (MDNS) is issued which places requirements on the proponent to take action to reduce the impact. For example, developments typically mitigate impacts on roads and schools by paying of fees that help construct needed facilities. When deciding what to require of a developer in the MDNS, the SEPA Responsible Official must ensure that it is proportionate to the impact caused by the project. In other words, a developer cannot be required to mitigate pre-existing problems or to provide excess capacity in facilities in order to serve future developments.
- The proposal will probably have a significant impact on the environment that cannot reasonably be reduced by the proponent. In this case, a "Determination of Significance" (DS) is issued. If a DS is issued, the proponent is required to prepare a detailed environmental impact statement (EIS) that identifies and quantifies potential environmental impacts.