On May 11, 2021, Skagit County Board of Commissioners Docketed LR20-04, Fully Contained Communities (FCCs) petition. If adopted, the proposal would amend the Skagit County Comprehensive Plan to establish criteria for consideration of a new fully contained community, consistent with Growth Management Act (RCW 36.70A.350).
The petitioner proposal includes amendments to the development regulations and the County Wide Planning Policies. These proposed amendments are not included in the proposal docketed by the Board of County Commissioners.
Docketing of the petition moves it into the Planning Commission Review process- it does not mean the petition has or will be approved. See the docket review process on the 2021 Comprehensive plan update page for more details.
On November 8, 2021 Long Term Planning Staff gave an update to the Board of County Commissioners on this proposal.Watch the meeting in full here, or view the slide deck here.
Purpose & Background
Fully contained communities are one proposal to plan for growth while
- Limiting the impacts of suburban sprawl on working landscapes and agricultural lands
Skagit County has a current population of 130,450 people (2020 Census) and will continue to grow. Population growth will continue as long as labor markets for future and existing industries, including natural resources and agriculture, remain strong. The population of Skagit County has grown by 55,000 total people since 1990.
- Creating a variety of affordable and accessible housing that serves all income levels
Skagit County has an abundance of natural resource lands, which make this a special place to live. As such, when planning for growth it is important that natural resource lands, including agricultural and working lands, are protected to the largest extent possible.
Currently only 64% of Skagit County’s 130,450 residents reside in the incorporated urban growth areas and 36% reside in the unincorporated County. Substantive steps taken by the Cities in recent years has increased the population growth rate within municipal urban growth areas to 73%, with 27% of the growth in the unincorporated county.
Lack of housing contributes to many issues including homelessness, lack of workforce, rural displacement, traffic and outward migration. While progress has been made, existing policies are not driving growth into urban areas at the 80 percent level or providing enough housing county-wide to alleviate the above issues.
This is expected to be an 12-18 month process. Public comment can be provided throughout. This is the first step in a five step process before a full contained community could be actualized.
- Once the non-project specific EIS is completed, the Planning Commission will make a reccomendation and Skagit County Board of Commissioners will take action on FCC Comprehensive Plan policies.
- If the proposed polices are adopted, Skagit County would work with the Growth Management Act Steering Committee (GMASC) to determine whether to amend the County Wide Planning policies to develop a population reserve for a future FCC.
- Skagit County would then need to update development regulations to permit a future proposed FCC.
- Finally, a project could be proposed, with a population reserve allocated and a UGA established through a Comprehensive plan amendment
Each step in this process provides for additional public comment to ensure that the goals and needs of thecommunity are met.
What is a Fully Contained Community?
What does the Growth Management Act require of an FCC?
A fully contained community is a master planned community that is created outside of existing urban areas. The developments are intended to contain a mix of jobs, services, recreation, and housing types. The density is intended to be that of an established city rather than a suburb. The development of these planned communities are governed by the State Growth Management Act, under RCW 36.70A.350.
Impact fees to help pay for new infrastructure such as sewer, water, schools, libraries, Fire and Police services.
Transit oriented site planning and walkability.
Buffers (space) between the community and adjacent lands
A mix of uses to offer jobs, housing, and services to new residents
Affordable housing available to a broad range of income levels
Stormwater, critical area and other similar environmental protections
Regulations to ensure that urban growth will not expand into adjacent non-urban areas
Mitigation of impacts to designated natural resource lands
Are there examples of FCCs in Washington state?
Yes, there are at least three fully contained communities in Washington state: Issaquah Highlands, Tehaleh, and Snoqualmie Ridge. Snoqualmie Ridge was planned before the Growth Management Act was enacted and has different development regulations.
Is this the same project as Avalon?
No. The FCC proposal is a “non-project proposal” which means there is no designated site or plan for an FCC in Skagit County. The proposal requests changes to the Skagit County Comprehensive Plan to allow for a future FCC development if certain requirements and regulations are met.
Why is the County pursuing an FCC?
The County is reviewing a petition from Skagit Partners, LLC to allow for Fully Contained Communities through the annual Comprehensive Plan process. Below is the typical Comprehensive Plan Amendment Process:
Why does Skagit County want to grow?
Population growth in our region will continue whether the community wants it or not. The growth estimates adopted by the County and Cities in 2016 estimate the population will grow by approximately 35,000 people by 2036.
The existing growth is evidenced in our low housing vacancy rates. Skagit County has one of the lowest housing vacancy rates in the state at less than 1%. This low of a vacancy rate ensures housing prices continue to rise at rates that are unaffordable to many of the county’s population.
In order to slow sprawl into rural and agricultural lands, the county is looking at strategies to encourage density in urban areas.
What is the 80/20 split about?
Since 1992 there has been a Countywide Planning Policy to encourage population growth in urban rather than rural areas. 80% of the new population growth should be in the Urban Growth Areas while 20% is in the unincorporated County. Currently 36% of the population resides in the unincorporated areas of the County.
What is an Urban Growth Area?
An Urban Growth Area is an area designated by Skagit County within which urban growth is encouraged and outside of which growth can only occur if it is not urban in nature. A municipal UGA consists of the city as well as the area the city is expected to annex. Skagit County has designated the following Urban Growth Areas:
- Bayview Ridge
- Mount Vernon
Don't the Countywide Planning Policies need to be amended?
Yes. State law requires that a population reserve is established before a fully contained community can be permitted. Every eight years the County and Cities negotiate the estimated population that they can accommodate in the next 20 years. Each city and the County are allocated a certain percentage of the total population.
Is the Board of County Commissioners voting on allowing FCCs this year?
No. More study of the likely impacts of a fully contained community is necessary. The County is going through the environmental review process. This is likely to take a full year.
Are my tax dollars paying for this study?
No. The cost of the study is paid for by the petitioner of fully contained communities, Skagit Partners, LLC.
What is an EIS?
An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is a statement on how a proposed project or policy will impact the community. For this purpose, “environment” is defined as both the natural landscapes and existing physical infrastructure along with the relationship of local communities with those landscapes. This can include impacts on water quality, roads, schools, services, and economic aspects. Impacts can be either positive or negative and generally the EIS will include strategies to mitigate for those impacts.
Will I be able to provide public comment before the County Commissioners vote?
Yes, the EIS process includes a public comment period once the determination is published, and again when the draft is available for review. The County will notice the public as to when the comment period will start and end.
There will be several opportunites to provide comment on the non-project specific EIS.
You can provide comment or ask questions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling Planning & Development Service Department at 360-416-1320.
The Planning Commission can be reached with feedback or questions at email@example.com or 360-416-1338.
You may also provide general feedback to the Skagit County Board of Commissioners at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-416-1300
PLEASE NOTE: To provide comment to be included in the EIS analysis, specific instructions will need to be followed. Once an EIS consultant has been brought on, and the process started, more information on this will be available.