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SCT began in 1989 as a voluntary association of cities, towns, the County, and the Tulalip Tribes. Its genesis was the recognition that growth presents “a challenge of great dimension that will ultimately shape our future quality of life” and that “it is imperative that this challenge be faced resolutely, and with a county-wide perspective”.9 In 1990, the SCT Steering Committee had reached consensus on a number of goals that formed a “regional vision and framework for growth management for the county”.10 These became official through the adoption of “Snohomish County Tomorrow’s Long-Term Goals”.11

9Snohomish County Council Motion 89-159, creating SCT

The GMA went into effect in 1990 and the addition of a requirement for CPPs took place in 1991. The SCT Steering Committee decided to use the SCT Long-Term Goals as a basis for establishing their recommendations for CPPs under GMA to the County Council.

Process Overview

The continuing cooperative and collaborative efforts of all jurisdictions in Snohomish County are essential to fulfilling the promise of the GMA. At stake is the delicate balance between our environment and our economy. This balance determines our quality of life. The Snohomish County Tomorrow Goals (1990) and the CPPs (1993) set out the countywide vision for managing future growth in the County and cities. Similarly, the County and cities have developed their own GMA comprehensive plans. These plans are consistent with this countywide vision, and coordinate the intricate relationships between land use, the environment, transportation, infrastructure investment, public services and the economy. The CPPs and each of the plans have undergone periodic revisions. Following adoption of these CPPs, the County’s and cities’ Comprehensive Plans will be made consistent with the vision and policies in this document.

During the 2021 CPP update process, the world was hit with the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic had a significant impact on the lives of all Snohomish County residents and businesses. At this time, it is impossible to know the full impacts of the pandemic, however those impacts may be long lasting. Future evaluation will be needed to understand the full impact of the pandemic.

Current and Future Policy Refinements

This document recognizes that some of the planning and development issues have been well researched and discussed so that strategies are generally accepted; for other issues, the situation is still emerging. Refinements and future amendments to these policies will use the process agreed to by the SCT Steering Committee. This process generally calls for one of the standing committees of SCT – usually, but not always, the Planning Advisory Committee (PAC) – to take the lead in formulating draft policy amendments to the Steering Committee. The Steering Committee then takes input and forwards its recommendation(s) to the County Council. Finally, the Council holds a public hearing and takes final action.

Figure 4 - General Process for Updating the CPPs

How to read these Goals and Policies

Most CPPs apply to all cities and the County. These policies use “County and cities” interchangeably with “jurisdictions” and “municipalities”. Some CPPs apply only to the County or to cities (and sometimes to a subset of cities). For clarity, policies normally state who implements the policy. Policies without a subject apply to all jurisdictions.

Unless otherwise stated, all policies have equal priority and each one should be understood in the context of the entire document. A number of policies include examples of actions, programs, or concepts. The intent of these lists is that they are illustrative unless otherwise noted or unless the list refers to specific documents.

The CPPs specify how directive a policy should be. They make use of three different words to do this: shall, should, and may. Usage of these verbs in the CPPs is more precise than their use in common expression. Even though in common usage “will” is synonymous with “shall”, in the CPPs the use of “will” does not specify how directive a policy is. Instead, it is used to express a future situation (i.e. after this happens then that will happen). It is an expression of intention.

“Shall” means implementation of the policy is mandatory and imparts a higher degree of substantive direction than “should”. “Shall” is used for polices that repeat State of Washington requirements or where the intent is to mandate action. However, “shall” can not be used when it is largely a subjective determination whether a policy’s objective has been met.

“Should” means implementation of the policy is expected but its completion is not mandatory. The policy is directive with substantive meaning, although to a lesser degree than “shall” for two reasons. (1) “Should” policies recognize the policy might not be applicable or appropriate for all municipalities due to special circumstances. The decision to not implement a “should” policy is appropriate only if implementation of the policy is either inappropriate or not feasible. (2) Some “should” policies are subjective; hence, it is not possible to demonstrate that a jurisdiction has implemented it.

“May” means the actions described in the policy are either advisable or are allowed. “May” gives permission and implies a preference. Because “may” does not have a directive meaning, there is no expectation the described action will be implemented.

Common Acronyms

BLR = Buildable Lands Report

CPP = Countywide Planning Policy

GMA = Growth Management Act

GMR = Growth Monitoring Report

HCT = High-Capacity Transit

MPP = Multicounty Planning Policy

MUGA = Municipal Urban Growth Area

PAC = Snohomish County Tomorrow Planning Advisory Committee

PSRC = Puget Sound Regional Council

SCT = Snohomish County Tomorrow

RCW = Revised Code of Washington (state law)

RGS = Regional Growth Strategy

UGA = Urban Growth Area

WAC = Washington Administrative Code

WSDOT = Washington State Department of Transportation