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PDFWAC 365-196-310

Urban growth areas.

(1)(a) Except as provided in (b) of this subsection, counties and cities may not expand the urban growth area into the 100-year flood plain of any river or river segment that:
(i) Is located west of the crest of the Cascade mountains; and
(ii) Has a mean annual flow of 1,000 or more cubic feet per second as determined by the department of ecology.
(b) Subsection (1)(a) of this section does not apply to:
(i) Urban growth areas that are fully contained within a flood plain and lack adjacent buildable areas outside the flood plain;
(ii) Urban growth areas where expansions are precluded outside flood plains because:
(A) Urban governmental services cannot be physically provided to serve areas outside the flood plain; or
(B) Expansions outside the flood plain would require a river or estuary crossing to access the expansion; or
(iii) Urban growth area expansions where:
(A) Public facilities already exist within the flood plain and the expansion of an existing public facility is only possible on the land to be included in the urban growth area and located within the flood plain;
(B) Urban development already exists within a flood plain as of July 26, 2009, and is adjacent to, but outside of, the urban growth area, and the expansion of the urban growth area is necessary to include such urban development within the urban growth area; or
(C) The land is owned by a jurisdiction planning under this chapter or the rights to the development of the land have been permanently extinguished, and the following criteria are met:
(I) The permissible use of the land is limited to one of the following: Outdoor recreation; environmentally beneficial projects including, but not limited to, habitat enhancement or environmental restoration; stormwater facilities; flood control facilities; or underground conveyances; and
(II) The development and use of such facilities or projects will not decrease flood storage, increase stormwater runoff, discharge pollutants to fresh or salt waters during normal operations or floods, or increase hazards to people and property.
(c) Under (a)(i) of this subsection, "100-year flood plain" means the same as "special flood hazard area" as set forth in WAC 173-158-040 as it exists on July 26, 2009.
(2) Requirements.
(a) Each county planning under the act must designate an urban growth area or areas within which urban growth must be encouraged and outside of which growth can occur only if it is not urban in nature. Each county must designate an urban growth area in its comprehensive plan.
(b) Each city that is located in such a county shall be included within an urban growth area. An urban growth area may include more than a single city.
(c) An urban growth area may include territory that is located outside a city if such territory already is characterized by urban growth or is adjacent to territory already characterized by urban growth.
(d) Based upon the growth management planning population projection selected by the county from within the range provided by the office of financial management, and based on a countywide employment forecast developed by the county at its discretion, the urban growth areas shall include areas and densities sufficient to permit the urban growth that is projected to occur in the county for the succeeding 20-year period. Counties and cities may provide the office of financial management with information they deem relevant to prepare the population projections, and the office shall consider and comment on such information and review projections with cities and counties before they are adopted. Counties and cities may petition the office to revise projections they believe will not reflect actual population growth.
(e) The urban growth area may not exceed the areas necessary to accommodate the growth management planning projections, plus a reasonable land market supply factor, or market factor. In determining this market factor, counties and cities may consider local circumstances. Cities and counties have discretion in their comprehensive plans to make many choices about accommodating growth. Each urban growth area shall permit urban densities and shall include greenbelt and open space areas.
(f) Counties and cities should facilitate urban growth as follows:
(i) Urban growth should be located first in areas already characterized by urban growth that have existing public facilities and service capacities adequate to serve urban development.
(ii) Second, urban growth should be located in areas already characterized by urban growth that will be served by a combination of both existing public facilities and services and any additional needed public facilities and services that are provided by either public or private sources.
(iii) Third, urban growth should be located in the remaining portions of the urban growth area.
(g) In general, cities are the units of local government most appropriate to provide urban governmental services. In general, it is not appropriate that urban governmental services be extended to or expanded in rural areas except in those limited circumstances shown to be necessary to protect basic public health and safety and the environment and when such services are financially supportable at rural densities and do not permit urban development. Recommendations governing the extension of urban services into rural areas are found in WAC 365-196-425.
(h) Each county that designates urban growth areas must review, according to the time schedule specified in RCW 36.70A.130(5), periodically its designated urban growth areas, and the densities permitted within both the incorporated and unincorporated portions of each urban growth area (see WAC 365-196-610).
(i) The purpose of the urban growth area review is to assess the capacity of the urban land to accommodate population growth projected for the succeeding 20-year planning period.
(ii) This review should be conducted jointly with the affected cities.
(iii) In conjunction with this review by the county, each city located within an urban growth area shall review the densities permitted within its boundaries, and the extent to which the urban growth occurring within the county has located within each city and the unincorporated portions of the urban growth areas.
(3) General procedure for designating urban growth areas.
(a) The designation process shall include consultation by the county with each city located within its boundaries. The adoption, review and amendment of the urban growth area should reflect a cooperative effort among jurisdictions to accomplish the requirements of the act on a regional basis, consistent with the countywide planning policies and, where applicable, multicounty planning policies.
(b) Each city shall propose the location of an urban growth area.
(c) The county shall attempt to reach agreement with each city on the location of an urban growth area within which the city is located.
(d) If an agreement is not reached with each city located within the urban growth area, the county shall justify in writing why it so designated an urban growth area.
(e) As growth occurs, most lands within the urban growth area should ultimately be provided with urban governmental services by cities, either directly or by contract. Other service providers are appropriate within urban growth areas for regional or countywide services, or for isolated unincorporated pockets characterized by urban growth. Counties and cities should provide for development phasing within each urban growth area to ensure the orderly sequencing of development and that services are provided as growth occurs.
(f) Counties and cities should develop and evaluate urban growth area proposals with the purpose of accommodating projected urban growth through infill and redevelopment within existing municipal boundaries or urban areas. In some cases, expansion will be the logical response to projected urban growth.
(g) Counties, cities, and other municipalities, where appropriate, should negotiate interlocal agreements to coordinate land use management with the provision of adequate public facilities to the urban growth area. Such agreements should facilitate urban growth in a manner consistent with the cities' comprehensive plans and development regulations, and should facilitate a general transformation of governance over time, through annexation or incorporation, and transfer of nonregional public services to cities as the urban area develops.
(4) Recommendations for meeting requirements.
(a) Selecting and allocating countywide growth forecasts. This process should involve at least the following:
(i) The total countywide population is the sum of the population allocated to each city; the population allocated to any portion of the urban growth area associated with cities; the population allocated to any portion of the urban growth area not associated with a city; and the population growth that is expected outside of the urban growth area. Cities and counties should use consistent growth forecasts, allocations, and planning horizons. The planning horizon should start on the relevant deadline specified in RCW 36.70A.130(5) and encompass a minimum of 20 years.
(ii) RCW 43.62.035 directs the office of financial management to provide a reasonable range of high, medium and low 20-year population forecasts for each county in the state, with the medium forecast being most likely. Counties and cities must plan for a total countywide population that falls within the office of financial management range.
(iii) Consideration of other population forecast data, trends, and implications. In selecting population forecasts, counties and cities may consider the following:
(A) Population forecasts from outside agencies, such as regional or metropolitan planning agencies, and service providers.
(B) Historical growth trends and factors which would cause those trends to change in the future.
(C) General implications, including:
(I) Public facilities and service implications. Counties and cities should carefully consider how to finance the necessary facilities and should establish a phasing plan to ensure that development occurs at urban densities; occurs in a contiguous and orderly manner; and is linked with provision of adequate public facilities. These considerations are particularly important when considering forecasts closer to the high end of the range. Jurisdictions considering a population forecast closer to the low end of the range should closely monitor development and population growth trends to ensure actual growth does not begin to exceed the planned capacity.
(II) Overall land supplies. Counties and cities facing immediate physical or other land supply limitations may consider these limitations in selecting a forecast. Counties and cities that identify potential longer term land supply limitations should consider the extent to which current forecast options would require increased densities or slower growth in the future.
(III) Implications of short term updates. The act requires that 20-year growth forecasts and designated urban growth areas be updated at a minimum during the periodic review of comprehensive plans and development regulations (WAC 365-196-610). Counties and cities should consider the likely timing of future updates, and the opportunities this provides for adjustments.
(D) Counties and cities are not required to adopt forecasts for annual growth rates within the 20-year period, but may choose to for planning purposes. If used, annual growth projections may assume a consistent rate throughout the planning period, or may assume faster or slower than average growth in certain periods, as long as they result in total growth consistent with the 20-year forecasts selected.
(iv) Selection of a countywide employment forecast. Counties, in consultation with cities, should adopt a 20-year countywide employment forecast to be allocated among urban growth areas, cities, and the rural area. The following should be considered in this process:
(A) The countywide population forecast, and the resulting ratio of forecast jobs to persons. This ratio should be compared to past levels locally and other regions, and to desired policy objectives; and
(B) Economic trends and forecasts produced by outside agencies or private sources.
(v) Projections for commercial and industrial land needs. When establishing an urban growth area, counties should designate sufficient commercial and industrial land. Although no office of financial management forecasts are available for industrial or commercial land needs, counties and cities should use a countywide employment forecast, available data on the current and projected local and regional economies, and local demand for services driven by population growth. Counties and cities should consider establishing a countywide estimate of commercial and industrial land needs to ensure consistency of local plans.
Counties and cities should consider the need for industrial lands in the economic development element of their comprehensive plan. Counties and cities should avoid conversion of areas set aside for industrial uses to other incompatible uses, to ensure the availability of suitable sites for industrial development.
(vi) Selection of community growth goals with respect to population, commercial and industrial development and residential development.
(vii) Selection of the densities the community seeks to achieve in relation to its growth goals. Inside the urban growth areas densities must be urban. Outside the urban growth areas, densities must be rural.
(b) General considerations for determining the need for urban growth areas expansions to accommodate projected population and employment growth.
(i) Estimation of the number of new persons and jobs to be accommodated based on the difference between the 20-year forecast and current population and employment.
(ii) Estimation of the capacity of current cities and urban growth areas to accommodate additional population and employment over the 20-year planning period. This should be based on a land capacity analysis, which may include the following:
(A) Identification of the amount of developable residential, commercial and industrial land, based on inventories of currently undeveloped or partially developed urban lands.
(B) Identification of the appropriate amount of greenbelt and open space to be preserved or created in connection with the overall growth pattern and consistent with any adopted levels of service. See WAC 365-196-335 for additional information.
(C) Identification of the amount of developable urban land needed for the public facilities, public services, and utilities necessary to support the likely level of development. See WAC 365-196-320 for additional information.
(D) Based on allowed land use development densities and intensities, a projection of the additional urban population and employment growth that may occur on the available residential, commercial and industrial land base. The projection should consider the portion of population and employment growth which may occur through redevelopment of previously developed urban areas during the 20-year planning period.
(E) The land capacity analysis must be based on the assumption that growth will occur at urban densities inside the urban growth area. In formulating land capacity analyses, counties and cities should consider data on past development, as well as factors which may cause trends to change in the future. For counties and cities subject to RCW 36.70A.215, information from associated buildable lands reports should be considered. If past development patterns have not resulted in urban densities, or have not resulted in a pattern of desired development, counties and cities should use assumptions aligned with desired future development patterns. Counties and cities should then implement strategies to better align future development patterns with those desired.
(F) The land capacity analysis may also include a reasonable land market supply factor, also referred to as the "market factor." The purpose of the market factor is to account for the estimated percentage of developable acres contained within an urban growth area that, due to fluctuating market forces, is likely to remain undeveloped over the course of the 20-year planning period. The market factor recognizes that not all developable land will be put to its maximum use because of owner preference, cost, stability, quality, and location. If establishing a market factor, counties and cities should establish an explicit market factor for the purposes of establishing the amount of needed land capacity. Counties and cities may consider local circumstances in determining an appropriate market factor. Counties and cities may also use a number derived from general information if local study data is not available.
(iii) An estimation of the additional growth capacity of rural and other lands outside of existing urban growth areas compared with future growth forecasted, and current urban and rural capacities.
(iv) If future growth forecasts exceed current capacities, counties and cities should first consider the potential of increasing capacity of existing urban areas through allowances for higher densities, or for additional provisions to encourage redevelopment. If counties and cities find that increasing the capacity of existing urban areas is not feasible or appropriate based on the evidence they examine, counties and cities may consider expansion of the urban growth area to meet the future growth forecast.
(c) Determining the appropriate locations of new or expanded urban growth area boundaries. This process should consider the following:
(i) Selection of appropriate densities. For all jurisdictions planning under the act, the urban growth area should represent the physical area where that jurisdiction's urban development vision can be realized over the next 20 years. The urban growth area should be based on densities which accommodate urban growth, served by adequate public facilities, discourage sprawl, and promote goals of the act. RCW 36.70A.110 requires that densities specified for land inside the urban growth area must be urban densities. See WAC 365-196-300 for recommendations on determining appropriate urban densities.
(ii) The county should attempt to define urban growth areas to accommodate the growth plans of the cities. Urban growth areas should be defined so as to facilitate the transformation of services and governance during the planning period. However, physical location or existing patterns of service make some unincorporated areas which are characterized by urban growth inappropriate for inclusion in any city's potential growth area.
(iii) Identifying the location of any new lands added to the urban growth area. Lands should be included in the urban growth area in the following priority order:
(A) Existing incorporated areas;
(B) Land that is already characterized by urban growth and has adequate public facilities and services;
(C) Land already characterized by urban growth, but requiring additional public facilities and urban services; and
(D) Lands adjacent to the above, but not meeting those criteria.
(iv) Designating industrial lands. Counties and cities should consult with local economic development organizations when identifying industrial lands to identify sites that are particularly well suited for industry, considering factors such as:
(A) Rail access;
(B) Highway access;
(C) Large parcel size;
(D) Location along major electrical transmission lines;
(E) Location along pipelines;
(F) Location near or adjacent to ports and commercial navigation routes;
(G) Availability of needed infrastructure; or
(H) Absence of surrounding incompatible uses.
(v) Consideration of resource lands issues. Urban growth areas should not be expanded into designated agricultural, forest or resource lands unless no other option is available. Prior to expansion of the urban growth area, counties and cities must first review the natural resource lands designation and conclude the lands no longer meet the designation criteria for resource lands of long-term commercial significance. Designated agricultural or forest resource lands may not be located inside the urban growth area unless a city or county has enacted a program authorizing transfer or purchase of development rights.
(vi) Consideration of critical areas and wildfires. Although critical areas exist within urban areas, counties and cities should avoid expanding the urban growth areas into areas with known critical areas extending over a large area. Counties and cities should also consider the potential risk of wildland fires when expanding the urban growth area into areas where structures and other development intermingles with undeveloped wildland or vegetative fuels. See RCW 36.70A.110(8) for legislative direction on expansion of urban growth areas into the 100-year flood plain of river segments that are located west of the crest of the Cascade mountains and have a mean annual flow of 1,000 or more cubic feet per second.
(vii) If there is physically no land available into which a city might expand, it may need to revise its proposed urban densities or population levels in order to accommodate growth on its existing land base.
(d) Evaluating the feasibility of the overall growth plan. Counties and cities should perform a check on the feasibility of the overall plan to accommodate growth. If, as a result of this evaluation, the urban growth area appears to have been drawn too small or too large, the proposal should be adjusted accordingly. Counties and cities should evaluate:
(i) The anticipated ability to finance the public facilities, public services, and open space needed in the urban growth area over the planning period. When conducting a review of the urban growth areas, counties and cities should develop an analysis of the fiscal impact of alternative land use patterns that accommodate the growth anticipated over the succeeding 20-year period. Counties and cities should identify revenue sources and develop a reasonable financial plan to support operation and maintenance of existing facilities and services, and for new or expanded facilities to accommodate projected growth over the 20-year planning period. The plan should ensure consistency between the land use element and the capital facilities plan, and demonstrate that probable funding does not fall short of the projected needs to maintain and operate public facilities, public services, and open space. This provides the public and decision makers with an estimate of the fiscal consequences of various development patterns. This analysis could be done in conjunction with the analysis required under the State Environmental Policy Act.
(ii) The effect that confining urban growth within the areas defined is likely to have on the price of property and the impact thereof on the ability of residents of all economic strata to obtain housing they can afford.
(iii) Whether the level of population and economic growth contemplated can be achieved within the capacity of available land and water resources and without environmental degradation.
(iv) The extent to which the comprehensive plan of the county and of adjacent counties and cities will influence the area needed.
(e) County actions in adopting urban growth areas.
(i) A change to the urban growth area is an amendment to the comprehensive plan and requires, at a minimum, an amendment to the land use element. Counties and cities should also review and update the transportation, capital facilities, utilities, and housing elements to maintain consistency and show how any new areas added to the urban growth area will be provided with adequate public facilities. A modification of any portion of the urban growth area affects the overall urban growth area size and has countywide implications. Because of the significant amount of resources needed to conduct a review of the urban growth area, and because some policy objectives require time to achieve, frequent, piecemeal expansion of the urban growth area should be avoided. Site-specific proposals to expand the urban growth area should be deferred until the next comprehensive review of the urban growth area.
(ii) Counties and cities that are required to participate in the buildable lands program must first have adopted and implemented reasonable measures as required by RCW 36.70A.215 before considering expansion of an urban growth area.
(iii) Consistent with countywide planning policies, counties and cities consulting on the designation of urban growth areas should consider the following implementation steps:
(A) Establishment of agreements regarding land use regulations and the provision of services in that portion of the urban growth area outside of an existing city into which it is eventually expected to expand.
(B) Negotiation of agreements for appropriate allocation of financial burdens resulting from the transition of land from county to city jurisdiction.
(C) Provision for an ongoing collaborative process to assist in implementing countywide planning policies, resolving regional issues, and adjusting growth boundaries.
[Statutory Authority: RCW 36.70A.050 and 36.70A.190. WSR 23-08-037, § 365-196-310, filed 3/29/23, effective 4/29/23; WSR 15-04-039, § 365-196-310, filed 1/27/15, effective 2/27/15; WSR 10-22-103, § 365-196-310, filed 11/2/10, effective 12/3/10; WSR 10-03-085, § 365-196-310, filed 1/19/10, effective 2/19/10.]
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