Growth Management Act.
The Growth Management Act (GMA) is the comprehensive land use planning framework for counties and cities in Washington. 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. These jurisdictions are sometimes said to be "fully planning" under 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. Each city in a county must be included in a UGA. Planning jurisdictions must include within their UGAs sufficient areas and densities to accommodate projected urban growth for the succeeding 20-year period.
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. Comprehensive plans must be reviewed and, if necessary, revised every ten years to ensure that it complies with the GMA. When developing their comprehensive plans, counties and cities must consider various goals set forth in statute.
Each comprehensive plan must include a plan, scheme, or design for certain mandatory elements, including a housing element. The housing element must ensure the vitality and character of established residential neighborhoods and, among other requirements, consider the role of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in meeting housing needs.
Accessory Dwelling Units.
An ADU is a residential living unit providing independent living facilities and permanent provisions for sleeping, cooking, sanitation, and living on the same lot as a single-family home, duplex, triplex, townhome, or other housing unit. An attached ADU is a dwelling unit located within or attached to another housing unit. A detached ADU is separate and detached from another housing unit.
Cities with more than 20,000 people, counties with more than 125,000 people, and counties that are required to plan under the Growth Management Act are required to incorporate in their development and zoning regulations recommendations made by the then Department of Community, Trade, and Economic Development, now the Department of Commerce, for the development and placement of accessory apartments in 1993.
As of July 1, 2021, fully planning cities under the GMA may not require the provision of off-street parking for ADUs within a quarter mile of a major transit stop, such as a high-capacity transportation system stop, a rail stop, or certain bus stops, unless the city determines that on-street parking is infeasible for the ADU.
Beginning six months after its next periodic comprehensive plan update, a fully planning city or county must ensure local development regulations allow for the construction of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) within urban growth areas (UGAs) and comply with the following policies:
A city or county may impose a limit of two accessory dwelling units, in addition to the principal unit, on a residential lot of 2000 square feet or less. A city or county may not authorize the construction of an ADU in a location where development is restricted under other laws, rules, or ordinances as a result of physical proximity to on-site sewage system infrastructure, critical areas, or other unsuitable physical characteristics of a property.
In addition, a city or county may not:
The provisions for off-street parking do not apply:
The requirements do not apply to lots designated with critical areas or their buffers, or to a watershed serving as a reservoir for potable water if that watershed is or was listed as impaired or threatened under the United States Clean Water Act.
Cities and counties may apply certain regulations to ADUs, including:
In addition, a city or county may waive or defer fees, including impact fees, defer the payment of taxes, or waive specific regulations. A city or county may only offer such incentives for the development or construction of ADUs if the units are located within a UGA and subject to a locally adopted program with effective binding commitments or covenants that the units will be primarily utilized for long-term housing
Any conflicting provisions in local development regulations after the deadline are superseded, preempted, and invalidated. Actions taken to adopt these regulations within a UGA may not be challenged under the Growth Management Act (GMA) or the State Environmental Policy Act. Attached or detached ADUs may not be considered as contributing to the overall underlying density within a UGA boundary of a county for purposes of the GMA.
Declarations or governing documents governing condominiums, homeowners' associations, and common interest communities created after the effective date of the act may not prohibit the construction, development, or use of an ADU within a UGA unless such declarations or governing documents were created to protect public health and safety or to protect ground and surface waters from on-site wastewater. A city or county that issues a permit for the construction of an ADU may not be held civilly liable on the basis that the construction would violate the restrictive covenant or deed restriction created after the effective date of the act.
By December 31, 2023, Commerce must revise its recommendations for encouraging ADUs to include the provisions in this act, and during each required comprehensive plan review, Commerce must review local government comprehensive plans and development regulations for compliance with the recommendations. The provisions requiring cities and counties to incorporate in their regulations the recommendations made by the then Department of Community, Trade, and Economic Development for accessory dwelling apartments are repealed.
(In support) The state needs as many tools as possible to address our ongoing housing crisis. The accessory dwelling units (ADUs) provide results. They are a proven strategy to add housing units, and there is no better way to increase housing supply quickly. The ADUs are necessary, reasonably-priced housing. Because ADUs are smaller than other homes, they offer affordable housing opportunities. The ADUs also provide opportunities for extended families to live together. The ADUs can be used to house elderly family members or for caregivers to assist seniors who stay in their own homes. Washington is far behind what other states are doing. California eliminated parking owner occupancy, lot size, and impact fee requirements with strong results. Statewide rules are desperately needed for consistency, instead of the patchwork of local laws that developers have to navigate now. Developers and homeowners face too many obstacles when building ADUs, and this bill remove the most significant barriers.
(Opposed) Counties are the least financially diversified government in the state and are very heavily property tax dependent. Counties cannot take on any more responsibilities with current funding, and this bill would require a costly update to land use regulations. The prescriptive requirements take away local government authority to make land use decisions. Impact fees should not be reduced for ADUs because impact fees are not based on the size of a building.
(Other) The bill needs some technical fixes related to urban growth areas and allowing hearings under the Growth Management Act.