Planning and Development Services
Management Act Update of the
Skagit County Comprehensive Plan
& Unified Development Code
"2005 GMA Update"
Why is Skagit County "updating" its Comprehensive Plan?
A recent amendment to the Growth Management Act (GMA) established a schedule requiring all counties and cities planning under the Act to update their comprehensive plans and development regulations every seven years. Skagit County must update its plan and regulations by December 1st, 2005, and every seven years thereafter. The cities within Skagit County must update their plans and regulations according to the same schedule. This is not the first County update since the Plan was adopted in 1997. Incremental updates have been done every year. This is the first time that we will review the entire Plan at once.
What it is Skagit County required to do?
Generally, the Comprehensive Plan and development regulations should be reviewed and, if necessary, revised to reflect changes in local needs and circumstances, new data, and changes in the law since the last adoption of the Comprehensive Plan. The "GMA Update" includes three important actions:
1. Involve the public. The Comprehensive Plan is the product of an untold number of informed and involved citizens. These people worked long and hard together to develop a shared vision, common goals, and workable policies to guide the wise use of our lands and public resources, protect and sustain the environment, promote sustainable economic development, and support a high quality of life in Skagit County. The success of the 2005 GMA Update process depends on the continued involvement of Skagit County's citizens.
2. Review the Comprehensive Plan and development regulations. The main purpose of this review is to determine whether the goals, objectives and policies of the Comprehensive Plan are in compliance with the Growth Management Act. The Comprehensive Plan must reflect changes in the Act, other laws, and relevant legal decisions. It should also consider emerging local and regional needs. The Comprehensive Plan may also need to be changed to improve and clarify its policies so that it is more "user-friendly" and easily understood. The development regulations will receive similar scrutiny as well as a "check-up" to ensure that they are consistent with the Plan's policies.
3. Take legislative action. The Board of County Commissioners will ultimately review and approve any changes that are necessary to update the Comprehensive Plan for compliance with the Growth Management Act. Their final action will mark the completion of the required seven-year update.
Who will do this work?
Skagit County planners and consultants will research changes in the law, recent legal decisions, new data and information. They will also "audit" the Comprehensive Plan's goals, objectives and policies for consistency with these laws, as described above.
With the help of a "2005 GMA Update and Public Outreach Steering Committee" the general public will assist in reviewing the Comprehensive Plan and development regulations, and inform the County of any needed or desired changes. The Skagit County Planning Commission will also review any proposed amendments relating to the Update, and conduct public hearings and deliberations. The Planning Commission will ultimately make a recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners regarding any needed changes. As mentioned above, the Board will take the final official action.
By early 2005 the County must gather together the results of its initial review, and relevant suggested amendments, and release a formal proposal of amendments that are needed to comply with the Growth Management Act.
How can I get involved?
First, be informed. You may wish to review the Comprehensive Plan and development regulations (Skagit County Code Title 14), which are available online at www.skagitcounty.net. Although it may seem a daunting task to read through this information, these documents help shape the future of Skagit County. There may be portions of the Plan and regulations that are of particular interest to you.
Visit the "2005 GMA Update" site, on Skagit County's website at www.skagitcounty.net. You'll find more information regarding the Update, documents to read or download, and a schedule of events. These events will include public meetings, open houses, hearings, and comment periods on proposed amendments. This information will be updated as exact dates are known. You will also find information on how to submit general comments by email, and how to receive regular news and information about the Update, and about the Planning & Permit Center's activities, by subscribing to an email listserver.
You may also assist in the initial review of Comprehensive Plan, and the Comprehensive Plan / Land Use / Zoning Map, by suggesting amendments that may be necessary to comply with the Growth Management Act, or to reflect local needs and circumstances.
How do I suggest amendments to the Comprehensive Plan? Is there a deadline?
In order for proposed amendments to be considered in time for the County to release its official set of proposed amendments by next January, the public must submit an Amendment Request Form by September, 15, 2004, if proposing a change to a city urban growth boundary, or by November 15, 2004 for all other policy and map amendment proposals. You may also attend the Steering Committee meetings and raise issues that you believe need addressing in the process (meeting dates to be announced).
Please note that if you wish to propose an urban growth area (UGA) mapping change near an incorporated city, you should talk to that City about how to include your proposal into the City's consolidated UGA proposal.
What if I request an amendment after the deadline?
There will be numerous opportunities to submit comments and suggested amendments. However, in order to meet the State's deadline of December 1, 2005, the County must begin public review of an official "proposal" by January. The above deadlines are needed to allow time to assess various proposals for how they meet the required tasks of the Update, and determine how they work together to improve the Comprehensive Plan for consistency with the Growth Management Act.
Comments and requests received after any deadline may not receive full consideration. Also, certain legal proceedings, such as public hearings, have specific requirements for how and when comments and testimony will be accepted. Please visit the County's website at www.skagitcounty.net for information about upcoming public participation opportunities and deadlines.
Do I have to pay a fee to suggest an amendment? What else is required besides the Amendment Request Form?
No fees will be charged. After submittal, you may be asked for additional information, such as verification of ownership, if you are proposing to change the Comprehensive Plan / Zoning Map designation of your property. You may also be asked to provide additional information to help clarify your proposed amendment.
The Board of County Commissioners thanks you for your interest in this important initiative.
Growth Management Act (GMA - RCW 36.70A) - State law requiring cities and counties to plan for 20 years' worth of growth. See "Comprehensive Plan".
Urban - Land inside cities and in urban growth areas that requires urban level utilities and services to support development. Generally with residential densities of 5 dwellings per acre or more (~8,000 square foot lots maximum).
Urban Growth Area (UGA) - Land outside cities designated by the county comprehensive plan for urban uses and likely eventual annexation or incorporation.
Rural - Land outside of UGAs and cities designated for agriculture and low density residential uses with possible "activity centers" where limited shopping or industrial uses support the rural residents.
Comprehensive Plan - Adopted goals and policies directing city or county growth over the next 20 years, includes land use, housing, transportation, capital facilities and utilities elements.
Capital Facilities - Streets, sidewalks, parks, trails, government offices, maintenance shops, police and fire stations, community centers and other public facilities owned, operated, and maintained by the city or county.
Annexation - Action taken by cities to expand the city limits to include UGA land. Requires commitment to provide city services (police, fire, solid waste, recreation, traffic control, etc.) and utilities (water, sewer, storm drainage, etc.)
Zoning - Mapping and regulation of land uses, lot sizes, building sizes and placement, and procedures for permitting development.
Municipal Research and Service