The long and short of subdivisions

The long and short of subdivisions
The House Local Government Committee voted in favor of two Senate bills concerning short subdivisions and accessory dwelling units. Photo:

A Senate proposal intended to increase the maximum number of units within a short subdivision continues to advance through the legislature. On April 2, the House Local Government Committee voted unanimously in favor of ESB 5008, sponsored by Sen. Guy Palumbo (D-1), after some additional modifications that highlight the potential concerns of local governments and existing residents near future developments.

Under the original bill, the number of plats allowed in a subdivision by local governments in counties subject to the state Growth Management Act (GMA) would increase from four to nine, with the possibility of up to 30; that is the highest allowed before a project falls under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) process.

An amendment incorporated into the bill prior to the Local Government Committee vote allows, rather than requires, cities and counties planning under GMA to expand the minimum number of lots within an urban growth area to nine or 14, through a local ordinance. It also requires the local government to notify neighbors and the local school districts of any ordinance increasing the minimum lot size. Any short subdivision development with more than four lots must provide opportunity for public comment, and the local government must address any concerns, such as infrastructure capacity.

At the April 2 meeting, Chair Gerry Pollet (D-46) said the amendment’s purpose is to “ensure that we were preserving local government options and not mandating that local governments do something in regard to subdivisions that they may not choose to do, but to give them additional flexibility.”

However, Ranking Minority Member Vicki Kraft (R-17) said that though she supported the amendment, for some members of her caucus, it would be “getting away from the idea of what a short plat process is which is to create more efficiencies in the process.”

At their meeting April 2 meeting the Local Government Committee also voted to advance ESB 5812, another proposal sponsored by Palumbo. That bill has local governments pass ordinances for accessory dwelling units (ADUs) within urban growth areas if they are not already permitted. Prior to the vote, a proposed amendment adopted by the committee inspired a similar discussion about preserving local government control over the matter.

The amendment restricts the policy to cities with populations of 10,000 or more. It also requires the local governments to notify residents of any proposed ordinance, provide a 30-day public comment period, and allows local governments that pass ADU ordinances to include owner occupancy restrictions, as well as stipulations regarding short-term rental of the ADU.

Rep. Tana Senn (D-41) called the amendment a “fine balance between encouraging ADUs and also recognizing the importance of neighborhood character and local control.”

Neither bill has been referred to a committee at this time.



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