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This sub-section of the Development Patterns chapter is intended to meet three purposes. First, it includes the countywide response to GMA requirements. Second, it includes policies to support parts of VISION 2050 that extend beyond state mandates. Third, it provides policies for issues that are specific to Snohomish County and its cities.

State Context

GMA distinguishes between Rural Lands and Resource Lands. In rural areas, there is a mix of low intensity uses including; housing, agriculture, forested areas, recreation, and appropriately scaled business and services, often following historic development patterns. Resource Lands are primarily for agriculture, forestry, or mineral extraction. Other activities on resource lands are to be of a subordinate nature.

Regional Context

VISION 2050 states that rural lands “are expected to retain important cultural, economic, and rural lifestyle opportunities in the region.”13 VISION 2050 emphasizes the preservation of these lands by calling for reduced rural growth rates by directing urban development into designated urban lands. It further encourages counties, wherever possible, to plan for rural growth rates that are lower than the levels that are contained in the regional growth strategy.

VISION 2050 also identifies that permanent protection of natural resource lands—forest, agricultural, and mineral lands—is critical to the region’s sustainability. It recognizes that the loss or fragmentation of these lands is particularly concerning for the long-term sustainability of the region.

Local Context

Beyond the guidance in GMA and VISION 2050, the rural land use and resource lands CPPs provide direction in the coordination of local issues outside of the UGA.

The objective of these policies is to manage and reduce rural growth over time and maintain the non-urban character of rural areas, an active resource economy, and prosperous rural cities.

DP-25The County shall establish low intensities of development and uses in areas outside of Urban Growth Areas to preserve resource lands and protect rural areas from sprawling development.

DP-26Density and development standards in rural and resource areas shall work to manage and reduce rural growth rates over time, consistent with the Regional Growth Strategy, GF-5, and the growth targets in Appendix B.

DP-27The County shall establish infrastructure and road standards in rural and resource areas that are consistent with appropriate development patterns and densities to maintain rural character.

DP-28Domestic water supply systems may be developed in rural and resource areas to meet the needs of rural areas as provided in the county’s coordinated water system plan. Water sources and transmission lines may be developed in rural and resource areas to meet the needs of urban growth areas.

DP-29The county may permit rural clustering in accordance with the Growth Management Act.

DP-30The County and cities should meet the demand for new commercial activity and services as well as new industrial job base in Urban Growth Areas (UGAs) with limited exceptions as identified below. Outside of UGAs, the County should limit commercial and industrial development consistent with GMA and the Regional Growth Strategy and should plan for commercial and community services that serve rural residents to locate within nearby UGAs, but can otherwise allow for:

a. Resource-based and resource supportive commercial and industrial uses;

b. Limited convenience commercial development serving the daily needs of rural area residents;

c. Home-based businesses;

d. Low traffic and employment enterprises that benefit from a non-urban location due to large lots, vegetative buffers, etc.;

e. Maintenance of the historical locations, scale, and character of existing commercial services and industrial activities; and

f. Resource-dependent tourism and recreation oriented uses provided they do not adversely impact adjoining rural and resource uses.

DP-31The County shall develop strategies and programs to support agricultural and forest activities.

a. Strategies should reduce pressure to convert resource and rural lands with resource-based activities to non-resource uses. Strategies may include redesignation of rural land to resource land.

b. Programs may include transfer of development rights, purchase of development rights, and other conservation incentives that encourage and focus growth in the Urban Growth Areas.

DP-32Jurisdictions should encourage the use of transfer of development rights (TDR), purchase of development rights, and conservation incentives. The objective is to focus growth in the Urban Growth Areas while lessening development pressure on rural and resource areas. Specific steps regarding TDR include:

a. Designating additional TDR sending and receiving areas;

b. Developing zoning incentives to use TDR in urban areas not already designated as receiving areas;

c. Coordinating efforts to establish a regional TDR program; and

d. Ensuring that an area designated as a TDR receiving area by the County remains a receiving area after annexation or that the city provides an equivalent capacity for receiving TDR certificates elsewhere in the city when the County and the affected cities have adopted an interlocal agreement addressing the TDR program.