Growth Management Act. The Growth Management Act (GMA) is the comprehensive land-use planning framework for counties and cities in Washington. Originally enacted in 1990 and 1991, the GMA establishes land-use designation and environmental protection requirements for all Washington counties and cities. The GMA also establishes a significantly wider array of planning duties for 28 counties, and the cities within those counties, that are obligated to satisfy all planning requirements of the GMA.
Counties that fully plan under the GMA must designate urban growth areas (UGAs), within which urban growth must be encouraged and outside of which growth may occur only if it is not urban in nature. Planning jurisdictions must include within their UGAs sufficient areas and densities to accommodate projected urban growth for the succeeding 20-year period. Cities must include sufficient areas to accommodate the broad range of needs and uses that will accompany the projected urban growth, including, as appropriate, medical, governmental, institutional, commercial, service, retail, and other nonresidential uses.
The GMA also directs fully planning jurisdictions to adopt internally consistent comprehensive land use plans. Comprehensive plans are implemented through locally adopted development regulations, and both the plans and the local regulations are subject to review and revision requirements prescribed in the GMA. When developing their comprehensive plans, counties and cities must consider various goals set forth in statute.
Comprehensive Plan—Mandatory Housing Element. The comprehensive plan of a fully planning county or city must consist of a map or maps and descriptive text covering objectives, principles, and standards used to develop the plan. The plan must be an internally consistent document and all elements must be consistent with the future land-use map. Each comprehensive plan must include a plan, scheme, or design for certain enumerated elements, including a housing element. The housing element must ensure the vitality and character of established residential neighborhoods and:
Countywide Planning Policies. The legislative authority of a county that plans under the GMA must adopt a countywide planning policy in cooperation with the cities located in whole or in part within the county. A countywide planning policy is a written policy statement used to establish a countywide framework from which comprehensive plans are developed, and must address certain minimum planning requirements, including policies that consider the need for affordable housing, such as housing for all economic segments of the population and parameters for the distribution of affordable housing.
Buildable Lands Program. Included as a component of the GMA, the review and evaluation program, often referred to as the buildable lands program, requires Clark, King, Kitsap, Pierce, Snohomish, Thurston and Whatcom counties and the cities within them to complete a buildable lands report every eight years. The report is a review of actual development to determine if cities and counties have designated adequate amounts of residential, commercial, and industrial lands to meet the growth needs incorporated in their comprehensive plans.
Comprehensive Plan—Mandatory Housing Element. The housing element of a county or city's comprehensive plan is expanded to:
The housing element should also link jurisdictional goals with overall county goals to ensure the housing element goals are met. If a county or city does not plan for each housing type, including, within the UGA, single-family residences such as single-family detached dwellings, duplexes, triplexes, and townhomes, the applicable countywide planning policy required under the GMA must provide for how the county and its cities will meet the existing and projected housing needs of all economic segments of the community during the planning period.
Countywide Planning Policies. Countywide planning policies must be updated no later than 14 months before any update of a comprehensive plan under the GMA.
The minimum planning requirement for affordable housing that must be addressed in a countywide planning policy is expanded to include policies that address how the county and its cities will:
A countywide planning policy must also include policies to address how the county and its cities will jointly meet the requirements of the mandatory land-use element of the comprehensive plan.
Buildable Lands Program. Counties and cities not subject to the buildable lands program are not required to comply with comprehensive plan and countywide planning policy requirements related to the planning and consideration of duplexes, triplexes, and townhomes within the UGA if the city or county adopts findings and provides evidence that either:
PRO: The bill has been worked on over the last few years and has been previously introduced. New amendments address single-family residences and missing middle housing within the UGA. The bill focuses on how counties can plan for and consider various housing types in a better way and according to certain timelines. The bill also attempts to bring balance to the housing element of the comprehensive plan, which is historically the weakest element with no guarantee of or accountability for housing planning. It is critical to address the lack of missing middle-type housing options. The bill will force communities to plan for future housing needs and bring more accountability to countywide planning policies. Updating countywide planning policies and zoning is necessary to ensure the expansion of housing access and thereby provide access to wealth and opportunities to obtain home equity.
CON: Language exempting certain rural counties from certain planning requirements due to lack of infrastructure is appreciated. Concerns remain around a mandatory update to the countywide planning policy at least 14 months before the comprehensive plan is updated. Counties need to be fully reimbursed for updating these policies. Adding a null and void clause to the bill would be appropriate.