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Public Services and Facilities

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State Context

The Growth Management Act (GMA) differentiates between urban and rural public services and facilities (RCW 36.70A.110). Certain public services and facilities, such as sanitary sewers, are allowed only in Urban Growth Areas (UGAs), with very few exceptions. The GMA requires local jurisdictions to determine which facilities and services are necessary to serve the desired growth pattern and how they will be financed (RCW 36.70A.070). The state’s intent is to ensure that those public facilities and services necessary to support development shall be adequate and provided in a timely manner without decreasing the current service levels below locally established minimum standards.

The GMA requires countywide planning policies (CPPs) to contain policies related to essential public facilities (EPFs) (RCW 36.70A.210(3)(C)). The GMA provides that no comprehensive plan or development regulation may preclude the siting of essential public facilities (RCW 36.70A.200(5)). The GMA allows counties to adopt comprehensive plan policies and development regulations related to the siting of EPFs of a local nature as long as those policies and regulations do not preclude the siting of any such facility.

Essential public facilities include those facilities that are typically difficult to site, such as airports, state education facilities, state and regional transportation facilities as defined in RCW 47.06.140, state and local correctional facilities, solid waste handling facilities, and in-patient facilities including substance abuse facilities, mental health facilities, group homes, and secure community transition facilities as defined in RCW 71.09.020.

Since the enactment of GMA, government’s ability to fund the expanding demand for critical public facilities and services and ability to achieve GMA goals has been reduced. As a result, government agencies have been forced to re-evaluate service levels and delivery while looking to other sources of funds for critical public facilities and services.

Regional Context

The Public Services and Facilities chapter responds to the overarching Public Services goal in VISION 2040 that reads, in part, “support development with adequate public facilities and services in a coordinated, and cost-effective manner”. Some of the services addressed in VISION 2040 are included in the Joint Planning subsection of the General Framework and Coordination chapter, and others appear in the Transportation chapter. The following policies are for those public services and facilities that are appropriate for discussion in this chapter and that are not covered elsewhere in the CPPs.

Conservation is a major theme throughout VISION 2040. It calls for jurisdictions to invest in facilities and amenities that serve centers and to restrict urban facilities in rural and resource areas. The multicounty planning policies also discourage schools and other institutions serving urban residents from locating outside the urban growth area.

Local Context

The designation of UGAs or Municipal Urban Growth Areas (MUGAs) establishes the public facilities and service area for cities in Snohomish County. The detailed planning and timing of such facilities and services and the installation of infrastructure improvements is determined through shorter-term 6-year capital improvement plans.

Public services and facilities in UGAs and MUGAs are expected to be provided at service levels to support urban densities and development intensity while reflecting the realities of limited funding resources and prioritization between those services and facilities.

Public services and facilities in rural areas of Snohomish County are expected be provided at service levels reflecting lower densities and more dispersed patterns of development.

Public Services and Facilities Goal

Snohomish County and its cities will coordinate and strive to develop and provide adequate and efficient public facilities and services to ensure the health, safety, conservation of resources, and economic vitality of our communities.