How the Environmental Review Process Works
Many people are confused by terms such as "Environmental Review", "Environmental Assessment", "Environmental Impact Report" and other terms used to describe the process of reviewing development projects for their impact on the environment. This page explains the environmental review process and how it may affect you and your project.
In 1970 the State of California adopted the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In simple terms, this act set up a process to assess how development projects may affect the environment. CEQA has four (4) main purposes:
What Types of Projects Require Review?
Environmental review is not required for all types of development projects. Some types of projects are exempt from environmental review. In the City of Lindsay, the following projects are always required to undergo environmental review:
In the City of Lindsay, the environmental review process takes place concurrently with the processing of all development applications and permits.
An environmental description form is required along with most
applications. This is a written statement outlining the
potential environmental impacts of a project.
Initial Environmental Study
The first step in environmental review is for the staff to conduct and Initial Environmental Study (also called Initial Study) to determine if the project may have a significant environmental impact. Some of the major issues and questions evaluated in an Initial Study include the following:
Based on the findings of the Initial Study, staff will make one of three determinations:
If the Initial Study determines that the project will have no significant impacts (#1 or #2 above) staff will prepare a form called a Negative Declaration (ND). A public notice of the ND will be published in the newspaper to allow any interested person time to review the project and make any comments.
The ND must be certified as being complete and accurate in accordance with CEQA by the City Council before they act on the proposed project. This usually occurs at the same time that the project is reviewed by the City Council.
Environmental Impact Reports
If the Initial Study determines that an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is necessary, the Community Development Department will contract with an environmental consultant for preparation of the EIR. The cost of preparation of an EIR is the responsibility of the project applicant. The City will confer with the project prior to selecting a consultant. The City will require the applicant to deposit the full amount required for preparation of the EIR prior to preparation.
The consultant will have several weeks to prepare a Draft EIR. When the Draft EIR is completed it will be available for public review and will be circulated to various public agencies, the public library and any other interested parties. The City may also conduct a public hearing to obtain comments on the Draft EIR.
After conclusion of the public review period, the consultant will prepare the Final EIR which incorporates any changes to the Draft EIR resulting from comments and questions raised during the public review period.
If the Final EIR identifies any unavoidable significant environmental impacts resulting from the project, CEQA requires the City Council to make certain "findings" prior to approval of the project. The Council may also incorporate "mitigation measures" identified in the EIR that are designed to reduce the environmental effects of the project. After these steps have been taken, the Council may certify the EIR and act upon the project permit itself.