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State Context

The Growth Management Act (GMA) establishes a framework for coordinated and comprehensive planning to help local communities manage their growth. The GMA calls for UGAs where growth will be encouraged and supported with adequate facilities and urban services (RCW 36.70A.110). Areas outside the UGAs are reserved for non-urban uses such as rural and resource lands (RCW 36.70A.070(5)).

Regional Context

VISION 2040 is a strategy for using the region’s land more efficiently and sustainably. It identifies existing urban lands as central to accommodating population and employment growth. In particular, VISION 2040 directs development to regional growth centers and, to a lesser extent, other centers and compact urban communities. It seeks to limit growth on rural lands. VISION 2040 recognizes that unincorporated urban lands are often similar in character to cities they are adjacent to, calling for them to be affiliated with adjacent cities for joint planning purposes and future annexation.

VISION 2040 recognizes that compact development creates vibrant, livable, and healthy urban communities. Such communities offer economic opportunities for all. They also provide housing and transportation choices. This reduces demand for inefficient forms of transportation that contribute to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Further, VISION 2040 supports brownfield and contaminated site clean-up as well as the development of compact communities and centers with high levels of amenities.

Local Context

The County designates UGAs per RCW 36.70A.110. The designation of UGAs must be coordinated between the county and cities per RCW 36.70A.100. This document provides the process and criteria for considering expansion of UGAs to accommodate the projected growth. While a change to an established UGA is most often expected to result in an expansion, in some instances a change to a UGA may instead be an adjustment, correction, or even a constriction.

DP-1The County shall maintain Urban Growth Areas (UGAs), as shown on the map in Appendix A, that:

a. Include all cities in Snohomish County;

b. Can be supported by an urban level of service consistent with capital facilities plans for public facilities and utilities;

c. Are based on the best available data and plans regarding future urban growth including new development, redevelopment, and infill;

d. Have identifiable physical boundaries such as natural features, roads, or special purpose district boundaries when feasible;

e. Do not include designated agricultural or forest land unless the city or County has enacted a program authorizing transfer or purchase of development rights;

f. Have been evaluated for the presence of critical areas;

g. Where possible, include designated greenbelts or open space within their boundaries and on the periphery of the UGA to provide separation from adjacent urban areas, rural areas, and resource lands;

h. Should consider the vision of each jurisdiction regarding the future of their community during the next 20 years;

i. Are large enough to ensure an adequate supply of land for an appropriate range of urban land uses to accommodate the planned growth; and

j. Support pedestrian, bicycle and transit compatible design.

DP-2An expansion of the boundary of an individual Urban Growth Area (UGA) that results in a net increase of residential, commercial or industrial land capacity shall not be permitted unless:

a. The expansion is supported by a land capacity analysis adopted by the County Council pursuant to RCW 36.70A.110;

b. The resulting total additional population capacity within the Snohomish County composite UGA as documented by both City and County comprehensive plans does not exceed the total 20-year forecasted UGA population growth by more than 15 percent;

c. The expansion otherwise complies with the Growth Management Act;

d. Any UGA expansion should have the support of affected cities. Prior to issuing a decision on a UGA boundary change, the County shall consult with affected cities and give substantial weight to a city’s position on the matter. If the County Council approves an expansion or contraction of a UGA boundary that is not supported by an affected city, it shall include in its findings how the public interest is served by the UGA expansion or contraction despite the objection of an affected city; and

e. One of the following conditions is met:

1. The expansion is a result of the most recent buildable lands review and evaluation required by RCW 36.70A.215 and performed per policy GF-7 following the procedures in Appendix E.

2. The expansion is a result of the review of UGAs at least every eight years to accommodate the succeeding twenty years of projected growth, as projected by the State Office of Financial Management, and adopted by the County as the 20-year urban allocated population projection as required by RCW 36.70A.130(3).

3. Both of the following conditions are met for expansion of the boundary of an individual UGA to include additional residential land:

(a) Population growth in the UGA (city plus unincorporated UGA) since the start of the twenty-year planning period, equals or exceeds fifty percent of the additional population capacity estimated for the UGA at the start of the planning period. Acceptable sources of documentation are the most recent Snohomish County Tomorrow (SCT) Growth Monitoring Report (GMR) or the buildable lands review and evaluation (Buildable Lands Report [BLR]), and

(b) An updated residential land capacity analysis conducted by city and County staff for the UGA confirms the accuracy of the above finding using more recent residential capacity estimates and assumptions, and any new information presented at public hearings that confirms or revises the conclusions is considered.

4. Both of the following conditions are met for expansion of the boundary of an individual UGA to include additional employment land:

(a) Employment growth in the UGA (city plus unincorporated UGA) since the start of the twenty-year planning period, equals or exceeds fifty percent of the additional employment capacity in the UGA at the start of the planning period. Acceptable sources of documentation are the most recent SCT GMR or the buildable lands review and evaluation (BLR), and

(b) An updated employment land capacity analysis conducted by city and County staff for the UGA confirms the accuracy of the above finding using more recent employment capacity estimates and assumptions.

5. The expansion will correct a demonstrated mapping error.10

10The type of errors that this policy intends to correct are cases where the UGA line incorrectly bisects an existing building or parcel, where it inadvertently and incorrectly follows an arbitrary feature such as a section line, or where the boundary is on the wrong side of a right-of-way that is expected to be annexed by a city.

6. Schools (including public, private and parochial), churches, institutions and other community facilities that primarily serve urban populations within the urban growth area in locations where they will promote the local desired growth plans should be located in an urban growth area. In the event that it is demonstrated that no site within the UGA can reasonably or logically accommodate the proposed facilities, urban growth area expansions may take place to allow the development of these facilities provided that the expansion area is adjacent to an existing UGA.

7. In UGAs where the threshold in Condition 4 has not been reached, the boundary of an individual UGA may be expanded to include additional industrial land if the expansion is based on the criteria contained in RCW 36.70A.365 for the establishment of a major industrial development. This assessment shall be based on a collaborative County and city analysis of large developable industrial site needs in relation to land supply. “Large developable industrial sites” may include land considered vacant, redevelopable, and/or partially-used by the Buildable Lands Program (per GF-7 and Appendix E of these CPPs) and may include one or more large parcels or several small parcels where consolidation is feasible.

8. The expansion will result in the realization of a significant public benefit as evidenced by Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) to the expansion area from Agriculture or Forest lands designated as TDR sending areas. The expansion area shall not be a designated forest or agricultural land of long-term significance.

9. The expansion will permanently preserve a substantial land area containing one or more significant natural or cultural feature(s) as open space adjacent to the revised UGA boundary and will provide separation between urban and rural areas. The presence of significant natural or cultural features shall be determined by the respective legislative bodies of the county and the city or cities immediately adjacent to the proposed expansion, and may include, but are not limited to, landforms, rivers, bodies of water, historic properties, archeological resources, unique wildlife habitat, and fish and wildlife conservation areas.

10. The expansion is a response to a declaration by the County Executive, or the County Council by resolution, of a critical shortage of affordable housing which is uncurable in a timely manner by the implementation of reasonable measures or other instrumentality reasonably available to the jurisdiction, and the expansion is reasonably calculated to provide affordable housing.

11. The expansion will result in the economic development of lands that no longer satisfy the designation criteria for natural resource lands and the lands have been redesignated to an appropriate non-resource land use designation. Provided that expansions are supported by the majority of the affected cities and towns whose UGA or designated MUGA is being expanded and shall not create a significant increase in total employment capacity (as represented by permanent jobs) of an individual UGA, as reported in the most recent Snohomish County Tomorrow Growth Monitoring Report in the year of expansion.

DP-3Following consultation with the affected city or cities, the County may adjust urban growth areas – defined in this policy as concurrent actions to expand an Urban Growth Area (UGA) in one location while contracting the same UGA in another location – without resulting in a net increase of population or employment land capacity. Such action may be permitted when consistent with adopted policies and the following conditions:

a. The area being removed from the UGA is not already characterized by urban development, and without active permits that would change it to being urban in character; and

b. The land use designation(s) assigned in the area removed from the UGA shall be among the existing rural or resource designations in the comprehensive plan for Snohomish County.

DP-4The County and cities shall use consistent land capacity analysis methods as approved by the Snohomish County Tomorrow Steering Committee.

DP-5The County and cities shall adopt comprehensive plans and development regulations (RCW 36.70A.040). In Urban Growth Areas (UGAs), such plans and regulations shall:

a. Achieve urban uses and densities;

b. Provide for urban governmental services and capital facilities sufficient to accommodate the broad range of needs and uses that will accompany the projected urban growth; and

c. Permit the urban growth that is projected to occur in the succeeding twenty-year period (RCW 36.70A.110(2)).

The County shall adopt such plans and regulations for its unincorporated territory. Each city shall adopt such plans and regulations for territory within its city limits. Additionally, cities may adopt such plans and proposed development regulations for adjacent unincorporated territory within its UGA or Municipal UGA (MUGA) to which the city has determined it is capable of providing urban services at some point in the future, via annexation.

When amending its comprehensive plan, the County shall give substantial consideration to the city’s adopted plan for its UGA or MUGA. Likewise, the affected city shall give substantial consideration to the County’s adopted plan for the same area.

However, nothing in this policy shall limit the authority of the County to plan for and regulate development in unincorporated territory for as long as it remains unincorporated, in accordance with all applicable county, state and federal laws. Similarly, nothing in this policy shall limit the authority of cities to plan for territory in and adjacent to their current corporate limits and to regulate development in their current corporate limits, in accordance with all applicable city, county, state and federal laws.

DP-6Sanitary sewer mains shall not be extended beyond Urban Growth Areas (UGAs) into rural areas except when necessary to protect basic public health and safety and the environment, and when such sewers are financially supportable at rural densities and do not result in the inducement of future urban development outside of UGAs. Sewer transmission lines may be developed through rural and resource areas to meet the needs of UGAs as long as any extension through resource areas does not adversely impact the resource lands. Sanitary sewer connections in rural areas are not allowed except in instances where necessary to protect public health and safety and the environment. Sanitary sewer mains are prohibited in resource areas.

DP-7City and County comprehensive plans should locate employment areas and living areas in close proximity in order to maximize transportation choices and minimize vehicle miles traveled and to optimize use of existing and planned transportation systems and capital facilities.

DP-8The County and cities shall coordinate their comprehensive plans (RCW 36.70A.100). Coordination in unincorporated territory planned by both the County and a city means that each plan should provide for the orderly transition of unincorporated to incorporated areas, including appropriate urban design provisions, by:

a. Creating a safe and attractive urban environment that enhances livability; and

b. Balancing actions necessary to meet the requirement of achieving urban uses and densities with the goal of respecting already established neighborhoods.

When amending its comprehensive plan, the County shall give substantial consideration to the city’s adopted plan for its UGA or MUGA. Likewise, the affected city shall give substantial consideration to the County’s adopted plan for the same area.

However, nothing in this policy shall limit the authority of the County to plan for and regulate development in unincorporated territory for as long as it remains unincorporated, in accordance with all applicable county, state and federal laws. Similarly, nothing in this policy shall limit the authority of cities to plan for territory in and adjacent to their current corporate limits and to regulate development in their current corporate limits, in accordance with all applicable city, county, state and federal laws.

Centers and Compact Urban Communities

DP-9Local plans should identify centers as designated by the Regional Growth Strategy presented in VISION 2040. Jurisdictions in which regional growth centers and manufacturing and industrial centers are located shall provide land use policies and infrastructure investments that support growth levels and densities consistent with the regional vision for these centers.

DP-10The County and cities shall coordinate the designation and planning of urban centers with transit service and other providers to promote well-designed and transit oriented developments that enhance economic development opportunities, address environmental goals, and reduce vehicle miles traveled.

DP-11The County and cities should revise development regulations and incentives, as appropriate, to encourage higher residential densities and greater employment concentrations in Urban Growth Areas.

DP-12Urban Growth Areas should provide for sufficient levels of development and developable or redevelopable land so that adequate sources of public revenue and public facilities are available to support the projected population and employment growth in Snohomish County consistent with GF-5 and the growth targets in Appendix B. In addition, the allowed density should support transit services and the efficient utilization of infrastructure.

DP-13The County and cities should integrate the desirable qualities of existing residential neighborhoods when planning for urban centers and mixed-use developments. Jurisdictions should adopt design guidelines and standards for urban centers to provide for efficient site design that integrates building design, transportation facilities, and publicly accessible open spaces.

DP-14The County and cities should promote and focus new compact urban growth in urban centers and transit emphasis corridors.

DP-15The County and cities should adopt policies, development regulations, and design guidelines that allow for infill and redevelopment of appropriate areas as identified in their comprehensive plans.

DP-16Jurisdictions should encourage the use of innovative development standards, design guidelines, regulatory incentives, and applicable low impact development measures to provide compact, high quality communities.

Unincorporated Urban Growth Areas

DP-17City comprehensive plans should have policies on annexing the areas in their unincorporated Urban Growth Area / Municipal Urban Growth Area.

DP-18In the Southwest Urban Growth Area (SWUGA), Municipal Urban Growth Areas shall be maintained as a part of these Countywide Planning Policies for the purposes of allocating growth as required by the Growth Management Act and CPP GF-5 and shall be portrayed on the map in Appendix A and documented in County and city comprehensive plans.

DP-19Where the Municipal Urban Growth Area (MUGA) map in Appendix A portrays agreement – meaning in places that do not include areas of gap, overlap, or other special notation – the MUGAs shall be used to designate future annexation areas for each of the nine cities in the Southwest Urban Growth Area. An interlocal agreement should be executed by the County and city addressing transition of services.

DP-20Where Municipal Urban Growth Area (MUGA) gaps and overlaps occur, the affected cities are encouraged to negotiate a solution and, if needed, to use a mediation process to fill gaps and resolve overlaps before proceeding with a proposed action to annex. The following guidance is provided for reconciling overlapping MUGAs and MUGA gaps:

a. Overlapping MUGAs and MUGA gaps may be reconciled between the affected cities and in consultation with the County. As used in this policy, the term “affected cities” means cities that are adjacent to MUGAs located in Snohomish County. For cities located in Snohomish County, “affected cities” include cities identified on the map in Appendix A that have MUGAs in common, as “overlaps” and cities that have incorporated boundaries or designated MUGAs adjacent to “gap” areas on the map. Cities having no territory in Snohomish County only qualify as “affected cities” after adoption of interlocal agreement(s) pursuant to Countywide Planning Policy JP-3 and Appendix F.

b. Amendments to MUGA boundaries that occur in conjunction with changes to the outer Southwest UGA boundary may take place through agreement and action by the County and affected cities following consultation with the cities.

c. Amendments to MUGA boundaries that are internal to the Southwest UGA boundary may take place through agreement and action by the affected cities following consultation with the County.

d. When an agreement is reached under (a), (b), or (c), the County Council shall consider the recommendation of the Snohomish County Tomorrow Steering Committee on the proposed changes to the MUGA boundary and may amend the MUGA map in Appendix A.

DP-21Where jurisdictions are unable to reach agreement under DP-20, it is not necessary for affected cities to resolve overlapping Municipal Urban Growth Areas (MUGAs) or MUGA gaps as a precondition to proposing annexation of property in the MUGA gap or overlap. In such cases, the established annexation processes under state law will guide city boundary decisions.

DP-22Paine Field represents a unique situation in the Southwest Urban Growth Area, as it is a County-administered regional essential public facility. Any proposal to annex Paine Field is not subject to DP-20 and requires an approved agreement with the County prior to proceeding with any action to annex.