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ALERT: Snohomish County Releases Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and Interactive Map of Future Land Use Alternatives
Public Participation Encouraged
This afternoon Snohomish County Planning and Development Services (PDS) released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and associated future land use map alternatives for Snohomish County’s 2024 Comprehensive Plan Update.
You can access today’s release, including the DEIS, interactive mapping, and more here.
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I’ll be providing insight and commentary on the DEIS and the county’s three growth alternatives in a future article for paid subscribers. But for now, here is a summary of the growth alternatives and information on upcoming public open houses:
Why a DEIS?
The State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) requires that jurisdictions conduct an Environment Impact Statement (EIS) when proposed land use changes are expected to have probable significant adverse environmental impacts. As a very basic overview, an EIS process consists of scoping (gathering information on the potential impacts and identifying the alternatives), analysis of the alternatives, publication of a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS), public comments, and adoption of a final environmental impact statement (FEIS). As you can imagine, creating a plan for 20-years of growth in the county involves anticipating that growth will likely have impacts on the environment. Thus, the EIS process allows the county to identify what those impacts could be and subsequently consider what mitigation may be feasible to offset some or all of those impacts.
Today’s release of the county’s DEIS marks significant progress in the environmental review portion of the comprehensive plan update and it also kicks off a significant piece of the process’ public participation.
What are the county’s alternatives?
No change/no action - involves no changes to existing land use and zoning, unincorporated areas would build to capacity or 2044 targets (if possible) and rural areas would experience 8.5% growth. Note: as we pointed out in this article, the higher rural growth percentage in this option would run afoul with the region’s vision. That said, the no action alternative is required to be one of the three alternatives considered and in my experience shouldn’t be taken seriously as a likely outcome.
Medium growth - this involves focusing growth predominantly in the SW UGA (unincorporated Everett, Mill Creek, Bothell, Lynnwood, Edmonds, etc.) and around high capacity transit stations. It would encourage more variety (e.g. density) within existing and future single family neighborhoods, change the land use designations in High Capacity Transit Communities (including Arlington and Marysville) from urban low density residential (ULDR) to urban medium density residential (UMDR), and feature a 3.3% rural growth rate.
Higher growth - essentially this alternative mirrors #2 above (medium growth) except that it would plan for additional growth in the Southwest UGA near HCT stations, include some minor expansion to the urban growth areas (UGAs) and set a rural growth rate of 4.5%.
Time to participate.
Although there have been opportunities for public participation in the lead up to the release of the growth alternatives, today’s release ramps up the frequency (and intensity) of public participation opportunities starting with open houses for the public on September 12th and September 13th. The County is encouraging registration for those interested in attending. Click here to register from their events page.
You are also encouraged to make comments on the alternatives within the interactive map the county has published.
The comprehensive plan update is a “periodic” update required by the Growth Management Act (GMA) in accordance with RCW 36.70A.130. In the lead up to the County’s comprehensive plan update, the region (aka the Puget Sound Regional Council or PSRC) first released a multi-county framework for planning (aka Vision 2050) in October of 2020. Vision 2050 includes a Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) based on accommodating an expected 5.8 million people in the four-county area by 2050. Vision 2050 was used by Snohomish County and its cities to update their required countywide planning policies (aka CPPs) and the county’s comprehensive plan update is also required to be consistent with the Vision 2050’s RGS, goals, and policies. RCW 36.70A.201(7).