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PDFWAC 365-196-325

Providing sufficient land capacity suitable for development.

(1) Requirements.
(a) RCW 36.70A.115 requires counties and cities to ensure that, taken collectively, comprehensive plans and development regulations provide sufficient capacity of land suitable for development within their jurisdictions to accommodate their allocated housing and employment growth, including the accommodation of, as appropriate, the medical, governmental, educational, institutional, commercial, and industrial facilities related to such growth, as adopted in the applicable county-wide planning policies and consistent with the twenty-year population forecast from the office of financial management. To demonstrate this requirement is met, counties and cities must conduct an evaluation of land capacity sufficiency that is commonly referred to as a "land capacity analysis."
(b) Counties and cities must complete a land capacity analysis that demonstrates sufficient land for development or redevelopment to meet their adopted growth allocation targets during the review of urban growth areas required by RCW 36.70A.130 (3)(a). See WAC 365-196-310 for guidance in estimating and providing sufficient land capacity.
(c) Counties and cities subject to RCW 36.70A.215 must determine land capacity sufficiency as part of the buildable lands reporting required no later than one year prior to the deadline for periodic review of comprehensive plans and development regulations required by RCW 36.70A.130, and adopt and implement measures that are reasonably likely to increase the consistency between land capacity and growth allocations. See WAC 365-196-315 for guidance.
(d) A complete land capacity analysis is not required to be undertaken for every amendment to a comprehensive plan or development regulation outside of the act's required periodic reviews. However, when considering amendments to the comprehensive plan or development regulations which increase or decrease allowed densities, counties and cities should estimate the degree of increase or decrease in development capacity on lands subject to the amendments, and estimate if the capacity change may affect its ability to provide sufficient capacity of land suitable for development. If so, the county or city should complete a land capacity analysis.
(2) Recommendations for meeting requirement.
(a) Determining land capacity sufficiency. The land capacity analysis is a comparison between the collective effects of all development regulations operating on development and the assumed densities established in the land use element. In order to achieve sufficiency, the development regulations must allow at least the low end of the range of assumed densities established in the land use element. This assures a city or county can meet its obligation to accommodate the growth allocated through the county-wide population allocation process.
(b) Appropriate area for analysis. The focus of the analysis is on the county or city's ability to meet its obligation to accommodate the growth allocated through the county-wide population or employment allocation process. Providing sufficient land capacity for development does not require a county or city to achieve or evaluate sufficiency for every parcel of a future land use designation provided the area as a whole ensures sufficient land capacity for development.
(c) The land capacity analysis should evaluate what the development regulations allow, rather than what development has actually occurred. Many factors beyond the control of counties and cities will control the amount and pace of actual development, what density it is built at and what types and densities of development are financially viable for any set of economic conditions. Counties and cities need not ensure that particular types of development are financially feasible in the context of short term market conditions. Counties and cities should, however, consider available information on trends in local markets to inform its evaluation of sufficient land capacity for the twenty-year planning period.
(d) Development phasing. RCW 36.70A.115 does not create an obligation to ensure that all land in the urban growth area is available for development at the same time. When counties or cities establish mechanisms for development phasing, zoned densities in the short term may be established that are substantially lower than called for in the future land use designations. In these cases, a county or city ensures a sufficient land capacity suitable for development by implementing its development phasing policies to allow development to occur within the twenty-year planning period. Development phasing is described in greater detail in WAC 365-196-330.
(e) The department recommends the following means of implementing the requirements of RCW 36.70A.115.
(i) Periodic evaluation. Counties and cities ensure sufficient land capacity for development by comparing the achieved density of development that has been permitted in each zoning category to the assumed densities established in the land use element using existing permitting data. If existing permitting data shows that the densities approved are lower than assumed densities established in the land use element, counties and cities should review their development regulations to determine if regulatory barriers are preventing development at the densities as envisioned. This evaluation must occur as part of the urban growth area review required in RCW 36.70A.130 (3)(a) and as part of the buildable lands review and evaluation program conducted under RCW 36.70A.215.
(ii) Flexible development standards. Counties and cities could ensure sufficient land capacity for development by establishing development regulations to allow development proposals that transfer development capacity from unbuildable portions of a development parcel to other portions of the development parcel so the underlying zoned density is still allowed. This may provide for flexibility in some dimensional standards provided development is consistent with state law and all impacts are mitigated.
(iii) Evaluation of development capacity impacts of proposed development regulation amendments. Counties and cities may also consider evaluation of whether proposed amendments to development regulations will have a significant impact on the ability of a county or city to provide sufficient capacity of land for development.
[Statutory Authority: RCW 36.70A.050 and 36.70A.190. WSR 15-04-039, § 365-196-325, filed 1/27/15, effective 2/27/15; WSR 10-22-103, § 365-196-325, filed 11/2/10, effective 12/3/10; WSR 10-03-085, § 365-196-325, filed 1/19/10, effective 2/19/10.]
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