Chapter 2.160
COMPREHENSIVE PLAN AMENDMENTS

Sections:

2.160.010    Authority.

2.160.020    Purpose.

2.160.030    Definitions – Types of comprehensive plan amendments.

2.160.040    Application.

2.160.050    Initiation of comprehensive plan amendments.

2.160.060    Docket of initiated comprehensive plan amendments.

2.160.070    Review and evaluation of comprehensive plan amendments – Staff report.

2.160.080    Approval criteria.

2.160.090    Review and evaluation of comprehensive plan amendments – Planning commission.

2.160.100    Review and evaluation of comprehensive plan amendments – County council.

2.160.110    Fees.

2.160.010 Authority.

The Growth Management Act (GMA) requires that an adopted comprehensive plan shall be subject to continuing review and evaluation, any amendments or revisions to the comprehensive plan conform to the requirements of Chapter 36.70A RCW, and that any changes to development regulations or official controls are consistent with and implement the comprehensive plan (RCW 36.70A.130(2)). Additionally, the GMA requires that the county establish procedures whereby proposed amendments or revisions of the comprehensive plan are considered by the county council no more frequently than once every year; except, that amendments may be considered more frequently under the following circumstances:

A. The initial adoption of a subarea plan that does not modify the comprehensive plan policies and designations applicable to the subarea;

B. Adoption or amendment of a shoreline master program;

C. The amendment of the capital facilities element of a comprehensive plan that occurs concurrently with the adoption or amendment of a county or city budget; or

D. To resolve an appeal of the comprehensive plan filed with the Growth Management Hearings Board or court. (Ord. 2008-060 Exh. A).

2.160.020 Purpose.

The purpose of this chapter is to define the types of plan amendments and establish timelines and procedures to be followed when proposals are made for amending or revising the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan. (Ord. 2008-060 Exh. A).

2.160.030 Definitions – Types of comprehensive plan amendments.

A. “Capital facilities element amendment” means a proposed change or revision to the capital facilities element of the comprehensive plan, including the six-year capital improvement program.

B. “Comprehensive plan amendment” means a proposed change or revision to the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan, including but not limited to a capital facilities element amendment, text amendment, change to the comprehensive plan designations map or urban growth area amendment.

C. “Text amendment” means a proposed change or revision in the text of any element of the comprehensive plan including revisions to the goals, policies, objectives, principles or standards of the plan.

D. “Urban growth area amendment” means a proposed change or revision to an urban growth area boundary as adopted by the comprehensive plan.

E. “Final concurrent review” means the consideration by the county council of all comprehensive plan amendments that were reviewed and recommended by the council during the previous docket year. This review shall take place on or about February 1st of the year after the previous docket year. (Ord. 2008-060 Exh. A).

2.160.040 Application.

A. Applications for suggested comprehensive plan amendments shall include at least the following information:

1. A description of the comprehensive plan amendment being proposed including proposed map or text changes;

2. An explanation of how the comprehensive plan amendment relates to the approval criteria in WCC 2.160.080, Approval criteria;

3. A complete State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) environmental checklist; and

4. Name, address, and phone number of the applicant, and, if applicable, assessor’s parcel number, section, township, and range.

B. The department of planning and development services may prescribe additional information requirements and shall provide forms for proposed comprehensive plan amendments.

C. Completed applications for comprehensive plan amendments must be received by planning and development services by December 31st to be considered for initiation during the next calendar year. Applications proposed by planning and development services are not subject to the December 31st deadline. (Ord. 2008-060 Exh. A).

2.160.050 Initiation of comprehensive plan amendments.

A. Comprehensive plan amendments shall be initiated by a resolution of the county council adopted by majority vote on or about March 1st each year.

B. Planning and development services may request a comprehensive plan item be initiated at any time during the year. Requested amendments of this type shall be placed on the docket by a majority vote of the county council and will be considered concurrently with other docketed items in accordance with the procedures in WCC 2.160.100.

C. In determining whether to initiate a comprehensive plan amendment, the county council will consider the following factors:

1. If the amendment relates to a site within a city’s urban growth area, modification of a city’s urban growth area boundary, or amends comprehensive plan text relating to a city’s urban growth area, the county shall consult with and consider the comments from the city, including comments relating to the availability of services. Proposed amendments to city urban growth areas shall be processed in accordance with adopted interlocal agreements between the city and county and any subsequent amendments;

2. If the amendment relates to removing designated agricultural, forestry or mineral resource lands, the council shall consider any long-term trends in the loss of resource lands and cumulative impacts of approving such an amendment;

3. Whether the county has already set a future date for examining the area or issue; and

4. Planning and development services’ existing work plan and the additional work the amendment would require of planning and development services staff.

D. The following amendment proposals shall be deemed initiated and included in the resolution that initiates comprehensive plan amendments:

1. Amendment proposals that the county council approves for initiation from those applications received within the application period;

2. Comprehensive plan amendments proposed by councilmembers that the county council approves for initiation;

3. Amendment proposals timely submitted by cities and approved by the county council;

4. Amendment proposals timely submitted by the county executive.

E. The resolution setting the list of comprehensive plan amendments initiated for the amendment cycle, the docket, shall be forwarded to the department of planning and development services. Upon receipt of the resolution, the department shall make copies available to the public and begin the process for the review and evaluation of the proposed amendments as set out in WCC 2.160.070.

F. County planning and development staff shall forward a copy of any suggested plan amendment which would modify a city’s urban growth area to the appropriate city staff within 15 days of receipt, and shall notify the city of the date the county council is scheduled to review the proposed amendment at least 10 days prior to consideration by the county council. (Ord. 2008-060 Exh. A).

2.160.060 Docket of initiated comprehensive plan amendments.

A. The department of planning and development services shall keep a docket of initiated comprehensive plan amendments and WCC Title 20 map and text amendments as initiated by the procedures in WCC 2.160.050.

B. The docket shall include the following information:

1. File number;

2. Name and address of the person or agency proposing the plan amendment;

3. Type of amendment being proposed and description of the amendment;

4. Initial year of proposed amendment;

5. Section, township and range of affected area, if applicable.

C. The docket and all application files shall be available for public review at the planning and development services department during normal business hours. (Ord. 2008-060 Exh. A).

2.160.070 Review and evaluation of comprehensive plan amendments – Staff report.

A. The department of planning and development services shall conduct environmental review under SEPA and prepare reports including recommendations on all initiated comprehensive plan amendments and forward both the reports and the result of the environmental review to the planning commission.

B. Reports shall evaluate the merits of each initiated amendment based on the approval criteria of WCC 2.160.080.

C. If a proposed amendment relates to a site within a city’s urban growth area, will modify a city’s urban growth area or will amend text relating to a city’s urban growth area, planning and development services staff shall identify and follow any additional procedures called for in an adopted interlocal agreement between the county and that city. (Ord. 2008-060 Exh. A).

2.160.080 Approval criteria.

A. In order to approve an initiated comprehensive plan amendment, the planning commission and the county council shall find all of the following:

1. The amendment conforms to the requirements of the Growth Management Act, is internally consistent with the county-wide planning policies and is consistent with any interlocal planning agreements.

2. Further studies made or accepted by the department of planning and development services indicate changed conditions that show need for the amendment.

3. The public interest will be served by approving the amendment. In determining whether the public interest will be served, factors including but not limited to the following shall be considered:

a. The anticipated effect upon the rate or distribution of population growth, employment growth, development, and conversion of land as envisioned in the comprehensive plan.

b. The anticipated effect on the ability of the county and/or other service providers, such as cities, schools, water and/or sewer purveyors, fire districts, and others as applicable, to provide adequate services and public facilities including transportation facilities.

c. Anticipated impact upon designated agricultural, forest and mineral resource lands.

4. The amendment does not include or facilitate spot zoning.

5. Urban growth area amendments that propose the expansion of an urban growth area boundary shall be required to acquire development rights from a designated TDR sending area.

a. One development right shall be transferred for every five acres included into an UGA. The county council may modify this requirement if a development agreement has been entered into that specifies the elements of development in the expanded UGA. The development agreement should include, but not be limited to, affordable housing, density, allowed uses, bulk and setback standards, open space, parks, landscaping, buffers, critical areas, transportation and circulation, streetscapes, design standards and mitigation measures.

b. Exceptions to required TDRs include urban growth area expansion initiated by a government agency, correction of map errors, properties that are urban in character, or expansions where the public interest is served.

c. Urban growth area expansion initiated by the county, cities or other agencies shall be subject to review by county and city planning staff, and the appropriate administrative bodies, to determine whether the subject site is appropriate for designation as a TDR receiving area. (Ord. 2008-060 Exh. A).

2.160.090 Review and evaluation of comprehensive plan amendments – Planning commission.

A. The planning commission shall receive the staff’s findings and recommendations for the initiated amendments and shall take public comment and hold public hearing(s) on the amendments.

B. At the conclusion of the public hearings and comment period, the commission shall evaluate the merits of each amendment in relationship to the approval criteria of WCC 2.160.080 and shall make a recommendation to the county council as to whether the amendments should be approved, approved with modifications or denied. The planning commission shall then cause written findings of fact, reasons for action, conclusions and recommendations to be prepared for each amendment. The written findings of fact, reasons for action and conclusions shall be forwarded to the county council in the form of a proposed ordinance(s) for its consideration. (Ord. 2008-060 Exh. A).

2.160.100 Review and evaluation of comprehensive plan amendments – County council.

A. Comprehensive plan amendments, except for amendments adopted by emergency ordinance pursuant to Section 2.40 of the Whatcom County Charter, shall be adopted by ordinance after a recommendation by the planning commission has been submitted to the council for consideration. All initiated amendments to the comprehensive plan with the exception of amendments set forth in WCC 2.160.010 shall be considered by the council no more frequently than once a year and concurrently so the cumulative effect of the various proposals can be ascertained. The council may schedule such additional public hearings as the council deems necessary to serve the public interest.

B. If, after deliberating, the council believes the public interest may be better served by departing from the recommendation of the planning commission on an initiated amendment, the council shall conduct a public hearing on that amendment.

C. The council shall decide to approve, approve with modifications or deny comprehensive plan amendments based upon the approval criteria in WCC 2.160.080. Those amendments may be recommended for final concurrent review throughout the year. Final concurrent review by the county council should occur on or about February 1st.

D. The council shall send recommended comprehensive plan amendments on to final concurrent review by December 31st. Amendments that have not been either recommended or denied by the council by December 31st will be re-docketed for the next amendment cycle with the same number with which they were initially docketed. (Ord. 2008-060 Exh. A).

2.160.110 Fees.

A. Application fees shall not be required for any application submitted by the county council, county councilmembers, county executive, planning commission, and county planning and development services.

B. All other applicants shall pay application fees as specified in the Unified Fee Schedule.

C. Once an amendment is initiated by resolution of the county council, the applicant shall pay the initiation fee within 15 days. The county council may take official action to waive the initiation fee at the time it approves the initiating resolution if it finds the proposed amendment will clearly benefit the community as a whole and will not be for private financial gain. (Ord. 2008-060 Exh. A).