Comprehensive Plan Glossary




Access control

Changing roadway designs to limit the number of driveways and intersections on major streets.

Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)

A dwelling unit that has been added onto, created within, or separated from a single-family detached dwelling for use as a complete independent living unit with provisions for cooking, sanitation and sleeping.

Accountability system

A system in which standards for employee conduct are clearly stated and members of a department are held responsible for meeting those standards.


The process by which jurisdiction over land within the urban growth area is transferred from the county to the city.


The largest local streets intended to move the most traffic.

Bonded indebtedness

In general, the debt owed after a municipality issues bonds to finance public facilities. This includes the amount of the bond plus interest.

Bulb Out

Extensions of the sidewalk into the parking lane, in order to shorten the pedestrian crossing distance. Bulb outs make the pedestrian more visible to drivers and cars more visible to pedestrians.

Bus Corridor

The main bus routes in Olympia. Bus corridors are on major streets with high-quality, frequent transit service.


The maximum level of designed use for a structure (such as a street or utility line).

Class A reclaimed water

Reclaimed, or "recycled" water is produced from the water we use and discard every day. It is ideal for many non-drinking purposes. Reclaimed water allows communities to stretch their water supplies and match the type of water they use to actual needs. Class A Reclaimed Water, the highest quality of reclaimed water.

Community Development Block Grant

A federally funded program designed primarily to support low- to moderate-income households.

Complete Streets

Streets designed to accommodate diverse modes including walking, cycling, and public transit and automobile use.

Concurrency (replaces current definition in glossary)

A governmental policy requiring the availability of public services (water, sewer, roads, schools, etc.) before a new development is approved for construction.

Conservation Easement

A nonpossessory interest in real property imposing limitations or affirmative obligations, the purpose of which include retaining or protecting natural, scenic, or open space values of real property; assuring its availability for agricultural, forest, recreational or open space use; protecting natural resources; or maintaining air or water quality.

Consolidated Plan

A strategic plan that outlines objectives for Community Development Block Grant funding.

Crossing Island

Islands in the middle of a street that allow the pedestrian to cross one half of the street at a time. Pedestrians are able to more easily find gaps in traffic, and reduce their exposure to a large number of cars at one time.

Engineering Design and Development Standards (EDDS)

Standards used to govern new construction (City and private development) within the city of Olympia. Standards apply to transportation, storm drainage, drinking water, reclaimed water, wastewater, and solid waste facilities.

Fair Share Housing

A policy to ensure the availability of affordable housing for all incomes and needs and ensure that each community includes a fair share of housing for all economic segments of the population.

General facility charges

One-time permit fees charged for new construction at the time of connection to the public infrastructure system.


Wastewater obtained from domestic sinks and tubs, but excluding that part of the plumbing waste stream that includes human wastes.

Group homes

A place of residence for the handicapped, physically or mentally disabled, developmentally disabled, homeless, or otherwise dependent persons. Group Homes are intended to provide residential facilities in a home-like environment. Such homes range from licensed establishments operated with 24 hour supervision to non-licensed facilities offering only shelter.

Growth Management Act (GMA)

A series of laws passed by the Washington State Legislature in the early 1990's to guide population and employment growth in the state. The "GMA" is outlined in RCW 36.70A.

Heritage Register

An official list of places (sites, buildings, and structures) important to the history of Olympia and worthy of recognition and preservation. The Register was established in May 1983 by the Olympia City Council, and in 2002 includes more than 200 properties.

HOME Consortium

Interlocal Board that receives and administers on behalf of Thurston County federal funds distributed to the County under the HOME Investment Partnership Program. Formed in June 2002 by Intergovernmental Agreement with the cities of Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater, Yelm, Tenino, Bucoda, Rainier, and Thurston County.

Human Scale

Design and construction considerations based upon the scale of a human being which imbue occupants and users of the built environment with a sense of comfort and security.


A science dealing with the properties, distribution, and circulation of water on and below the earth's surface and in the atmosphere

Impervious surface

Pavement, including but not limited to, asphalt, concrete, and compacted gravel, roofs, revetments, and any other built surfaces which substantially impede the infiltration of precipitation.


Land that is largely vacant and underdeveloped within areas that are already largely developed.

Latecomer fees

Developer reimbursements that finance infrastructure to support the new development.

Level of Service

An indicator of the degree of service provided by a public facility based on the operational characteristics of that facility.

Local Access Street

Local access streets carry local traffic within a neighborhood and may provide connections to collectors or arterials.

Local Improvement Districts

Local Improvement Districts (LIDs) in the City of Olympia are created to finance development infrastructure such as roads and streets, drainage improvement, and the installation of water or sewer lines. Within the City there is one active Local Improvement District. Not all property within the City is included in this district.

Major Collector

Major collectors provide connections between arterials and concentrations of residential and commercial activities.


Million Gallons per Day


Mitigation means countering the negative environmental impacts that developing the land can have on wetlands, rivers, streams, lakes, and other habitats in the following order of preference:

1. Avoiding the impact altogether by not taking a certain action or parts of an action;

2. Minimizing impacts by limiting the degree or magnitude of the action and its implementation, by using appropriate technology, or by taking affirmative steps to avoid or reduce impacts;

3. Rectifying the impact by repairing, rehabilitating or restoring the affected environment;

4. Reducing or eliminating the impact over time by preservation and maintenance operations during the life of the action;

5. Compensating for the impact by replacing, enhancing or providing substitute resources or environments;

6. Monitoring the impact and taking appropriate corrective measures.

Mitigation for individual actions may include a combination of the above measures.

Mixed Use

The use of a parcel or structure by two or more different land uses, such as a combination of residential, office, manufacturing, retail, public, or entertainment in a single or physically integrated group of structures.


Mobility refers to the movement of people or goods.


A temporary halting or severe restriction on specified development activities.


Referring to various modes -- walking, cycling, automobile, public transit, etc. -- and connections among modes.

Neighborhood Collector

Neighborhood collectors collect and distribute traffic between a residential neighborhood and an arterial or major collector.

Net loss (Shoreline Master Program)

A standard designed to halt the introduction of new impacts to shoreline ecological functions resulting from new development.


Neighborhood pathways are short connections for bicyclists and pedestrians that connect streets to parks, schools and other streets where no motor vehicle connection exists.

Pedestrian Scale (same as human scale)

Design and construction considerations based upon the scale of a human being which imbue occupants and users of the built environment with a sense of comfort and security.

Permeable materials

Porous materials that allow rainwater to pass through to soak back into the ground.

Planter Strip

A strip planted with trees, shrubs, or other vegetation between the sidewalk and the curb.

Sense of Place

A sense of place is a unique collection of qualities and characteristics - visual, cultural, social, and environmental - that provide meaning to a location.

STEP systems

STEP stands for Septic Tank Effluent Pump. Most customers' household waste goes directly into our sewer collection pipes; waste from customers on STEP systems doesn't. Instead, household wastewater spends time in a STEP sewer system before heading out to the main sewer collection lines. There is a "STEP in-between" flushing your toilet and wastewater being transported to the treatment plant.


Careful and responsible management

Strategy Corridors (replaces current definition in glossary)

Streets where widening is not a preferred option to address congestion problems. This may be because the street is already at the maximum five-lane width, or that adjacent land uses are either fully built out or are environmentally sensitive.

Street Hierarchy

The system by which roads are classified according to their purpose and the travel demand they serve.

Street Spacing

How often different types of streets are planned or built within a street layout.

Street Standards

Design standards that guide the uniform development of public streets to support present and future multimodal transportation. Standards define the specific features and dimensions of different classes of streets.


The elements that make up a street and that define its character, including building frontage, street furniture, landscaping, awnings, signs and lighting.


A sustainable community is one that persists over generations and is far-seeing enough, flexible enough and wise enough to maintain its natural, economic, social and political support systems.

SWAT Teams

A multi-agency "Special Weapons and Tactics" response team that assists with the safe and successful resolution of critical incidents, such as dealing with armed and dangerous subjects, hostage incidents, large public disturbances, barricaded suspects and the execution of high-risk warrants.


Regulating or limiting the use of property under the government's police power authority in such a way as to destroy one or more of the fundamental attributes of ownership, deny all reasonable economic use of the property, or require the property owner to provide a public benefit rather than addressing some public impact caused by a proposed use.

Transfer of Development Rights

A process to gain credit for unused development rights that can be sold and transferred to another property. Development rights may be used to allow specific density changes in urban areas.

Transit Queue Jump Lanes

A bus lane combined with traffic signal priority enabling buses to by-pass waiting queues of traffic.

Transportation Demand Management

Measures that encourage the use of alternatives to driving alone or that reduce the need to travel altogether.


An area within the county that is not within city or town jurisdiction.

Urban Corridor

Selected major streets and the planned high-density, mixed land uses that surround them.

Urban Growth Area

Area designated by the County, in coordination with cities, within which urban growth is encouraged. "Urban growth" makes intensive use of land for the location of buildings, structures, and impermeable surfaces such that it is incompatible with the primary use of land for agriculture and other rural uses and development, as defined in RCW 36.70A. Growth can occur outside of the "UGA" only if it is not urban in nature.


A small, compact center of predominantly residential character but with a core of mixed-use commercial, residential, and community services. A village typically has a recognizable center, discrete physical boundaries, and a pedestrian scale and orientation. Olympia's village sites are shown on the Future Land Use Map.


Signs, markings, maps, electronic devices and other features that help people navigate through an area.

Wellhead Area

Surface and subsurface area surrounding a water well or well field supplying a public water supply system.