SED’S Changing Role in the SEQRA and Building Permit Process
Effective September 1, 2001, the State Education Department began acting as an involved agency and not as lead agency for public school construction projects. Per section 6NYCRR617.2 of the SEQR regulations, an involved agency is defined as an "agency that has jurisdiction by law to fund, approve or directly undertake an action." A lead agency is defined as "an involved agency principally responsible for undertaking, funding or approving an action, and therefore responsible for determining whether an environmental impact statement is required in connection with the action, and for the preparation and filing of the statement if one is required". Before taking any formal action on a project, the Board of Education as lead agency must satisfy the requirements of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). This includes, in the opinion of SED, scheduling the vote.
SED will review submission documents to verify that either the Type II Board of Education resolution was completed, or the appropriate Negative Declaration or Statement of Findings was issued and that the date of SEQR completion was prior to the date of authorization. Accordingly, we have amended the project description form, now entitled "Scope of Proposed Project", to capture this information. No review of your proposal can be undertaken until the SEQR process is complete. In addition, no Building Permits will be issued if the voter authorization date is prior to the date of the final SEQR determination.
From this point on, a new procedure must also be implemented. SED, in order to fulfill its responsibilities under Section 14.09 of the NYS Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Law, must assure that the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) has been consulted regarding any proposed construction so as to protect New York’s historic and archeological resources whenever SED approves a project for funding with public monies. This will apply to all projects regardless of size or scope, including all SEQR Type II, Type I, or Unlisted Actions. Therefore, SED will require, as part of the submittal package, evidence that the district has initiated contact with SHPO seeking their advice as to whether historic or archaeological resources will be impacted and if so, how any substantial adverse impacts can be avoided or mitigated.
If an adverse environmental impact cannot be avoided or adequately mitigated, an agreement must be reached between SHPO and the district if possible. SHPO’s final correspondence should be forwarded to the Project Manager and any of their mitigation methods must be incorporated into the final design before a Building Permit can be issued. It is recommended that SHPO be contacted as early in the planning process as information is available. Failure to do so could substantially alter a project’s timeline.
NOTE: For final submissions, one of the following may be applicable:
- If SEQR was cleared by SED prior to 9/1/01 and nothing in the project scope has changed significantly, submit the SHPO correspondence as detailed above.
- If a DEIS was completed prior to 9/1/01 that included SHPO involvement, no further SHPO correspondence is required.
- If SEQR was cleared by SED prior to 9/1/01 but the project has changed significantly, the district acting as lead agency will have to clear SEQR again and, if necessary, have the project reauthorized by the voters. This also means that the Scope of Proposed Project form must be submitted indicating when and how the district made the final SEQR determination. In addition, the SHPO correspondence must be sent to the project manager.
- A district may not reference a previous project for which SEQR was cleared by SED and use that SEQR determination for a new project, even if it is for the same building and for work that was mentioned under the previous proposal. In other words, the work to be covered under each project control number must have its own individual SEQR review. We recognize that districts may have authorized reconstruction work through voter referendums for which, under the "old rules," we did not require our clearance as "lead agency" for the SEQR review prior to that authorization. For those projects, we will require a SEQR determination by the school district. The final submission for such projects must include the Scope of Proposed Project form as well as a copy of the SEQR determination made by the district (generally in the form of a board resolution).
However, districts will be responsible for clearing SEQR prior to the vote authorizing capital projects to be done during the next school year (2002-2003) or subsequent school years. Since most referendums are placed before the voters in the month of May, all capital construction projects to be done in the following school years must be cleared by the district acting as lead agency prior to even setting a date for the referendum.
More detailed information for implementing the SEQR process and the associated changes in SED’s Building Permit process, as well as the Scope of Proposed Project form, can be found on our web site at www.emsc.nysed.gov/facplan/.