Snohomish County Adopts Urban Center Ordinance

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Planning for growth in Snohomish County since the adoption of the GMA has been focused primarily on development in urban growth areas around the 20 cities of the county, however there is far too much growth still occurring in our rural areas impacting,  our water quality and wildlife habit.

To help ease the pressures to develop our greenspaces, thanks to the advocacy of Futurewise, the County has identified urban center locations around major transportation corridors encompassing Bothell, Everett, Mukilteo, Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mill Creek, but for years the only policies and regulations implemented were in the form of an Urban Center demonstration project at I-5 and 164th Street, where a large bus transit center is located.

While some urban center development has occurred at that location, a more complete Urban Center policy and better regulations needed to be in place.  After years of work, Snohomish County Council finally adopted an Urban Center ordinance, which we hope will mean better opportunities and more creation of transit-oriented communities here in Snohomish County!

Some of the high points of the new regulations include: 

- Increase density incentives for building affordable housing, using Transfer of Development Rights to protect farmland,

- Allowing cities who may annex the urban center areas to be part of the permitting process for new development,

- On site recreation and pedestrian circulation required under first phase of a development if it is done in phases,

- Pre-application neighborhood meetings, 30 days before submittal of a development application to ensure effective public participation and to give neighborhood residents an opportunity to learn about the Urban Center project and to work with the developer to address concerns and conflicts.

While the ordinance seems a bit cumbersome in process for developers, which may need to be tweaked if developers shy away from wanting to build in these areas, many of the new regulations will help tremendously to encourage great mixed-use, transit-oriented centers.  These centers will provide open space for community gatherings, more walking and biking opportunities, and will make it so much easier for new residents to use the bus systems, and eventually the light rail system when it comes to Snohomish County.

To view the entire ordinance, click here

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