GMA Plan/Development Regulations Updates
The Growth Management Act (GMA) requires that each Washington city and county establish a public participation program and procedures for amendments, updates and revisions of comprehensive plans and development regulations. With some exceptions, proposed amendments or updates may be considered no more frequently than once every year and must be considered concurrently, so that the cumulative effects may be evaluated.
Each Washington city and county must periodically review and, if needed, revise its comprehensive plan and development regulations - every eight years - to ensure that they comply with the GMA, as per the schedule provided in RCW 36.70A.130. Cities and counties planning under RCW 36.70A.040 (fully planning cities and counties) must complete such a periodic update for their entire comprehensive plan and development regulations. All counties and cities, including those not fully planning under the GMA, are required to review and, if necessary, amend their policies and development regulations regarding critical areas and natural resource lands. Critical areas ordinances must incorporate requirements for use of best available science and give special consideration to anadromous fisheries - see information on Critical Areas and Best Available Science.
Legislation Extending Update Deadlines
ESHB 1478 ()(effective July 22, 2011) extends the time between mandated growth management plan/development regulation and shoreline plan updates to every eight years, and reallocates review and revision years for some jurisdictions. The first bloc of counties and cities must complete review and revision requirements by June 30, 2015, rather than December 1, 2014. An additional two years for meeting the review and revision requirements is granted to smaller and slow growing counties and cities that meet certain criteria. County reviews of designated urban growth areas (UGAs) must also be completed according to this schedule, and evaluation requirements for the buildable lands program must be completed by counties and cities one year before the applicable review and revision deadline. The deadline and extension provisions are to be codified in RCW 36.70A.130 (3), (4), (5) and (6).
In addition, RCW 36.70A.130(3), as amended by ESHB 1478, requires counties and cities to review, according to the schedules established in RCW 36.70A.130(5), designated UGAs, the densities permitted within each UGA, and the nature of development that has occurred. UGAs and comprehensive plans are to be revised to accommodate the urban growth projected for the succeeding twenty-year period.
A jurisdiction may complete the periodic update process before its deadline. The deadline for its next periodic update would still remain eight years from the original deadline established in the GMA. For example, if a jurisdiction has an update deadline of June 30, 2015, but it completes its update in 2012, then it would not be subject to another required periodic update until 2023.
For the update schedule for all counties, see the GMA Update Schedule Map, on the Department of Commerce website.
Shoreline Master Program Updates
RCW 90.58.080 provides a timetable of deadlines by which local governments must complete or amend their shoreline master program (SMP) to be consistent with state guidelines. Beginning June 30, 2019, each county, and the cities within each county, must review and revise their shoreline master programs on an eight-year cycle, rather than the current seven-year cycle, as provided by ESHB 1478 (to be codified as RCW 90.58.080 (4)(a)). The Department of Ecology is required to strive to achieve final action on a submitted master program within 180 days of receipt and to post an annual assessment of its own performance on its website. As per RCW 36.70A.480, goals and policies of the SMP shall be considered an element of a local jurisdiction's comprehensive plan. All other portions of the SMP shall be considered a part of the local jurisdiction's development regulations.
Department of Commerce Update Information
The Washington State Department of Commerce (formerly Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development) has prepared information on plan updates. Please see the Department's webpage: Growth Management Act Periodic Update. This webpage includes a link to a very useful guidebook on completing the periodic update: the "Keeping Your Comprehensive Plan and Development Regulations Current," revised November, 2011. Guidebook appendices include checklists, sample work programs, resolutions/ordinances and other helpful aids. Appendix E of this guidebook includes a list of amendments to GMA that should help alert local jurisdictions to corresponding amendments that may be needed in local comprehensive plans to maintain consistency to GMA.
- GMA Update: Issues To Consider When Reviewing Comprehensive Plans and Development Regulations, Washington State Department of Commerce (formerly CTED) - Describes issues including best available science, general aviation airports, integration of environmental and development permit processes, shoreline programs, endangered species, and others. Still useful although dated 12/05/2003
- GMA Update Schedule Map, 07/2011
- Map of Counties Planning Under the Growth Management Act (GMA) (), Washington State Department of Commerce (formerly CTED)
- Growth Management Act Periodic Update, Washington State Department of Commerce (formerly Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development) - Includes a link to a very useful guidebook on completing the periodic update: the "Keeping Your Comprehensive Plan and Development Regulations Current," revised November 2011. It also includes updated checklists and good example documents for plan updates.
Local Comprehensive Plan Update Programs
Some jurisdictions were already underway with comprehensive plan updates in anticipation of 2011 deadlines. Now that the first set of deadlines has been postponed until June 30, 2015, some jurisdictions are continuing with their update process, but phasing update work over the extended period of time.
- Redmond 2030 Comprehensive Plan Update Project - Includes links to Redmond's commendable involvement process (see final report) and many useful project documents for comprehensive plan update adopted 12/06/2011
- Seattle Major Review - Seattle has moved to a phased update approach since the state deadline was moved to 06/2015. Page includes 6 min. video on major update, how citizens can get involved, key staff contacts, links to related documents, and survey comments about what should be included in scope of review, and about citizens' dream of Seattle, updated 06/29/2011
- Sequim Comprehensive Plan Update, 2011 - City plans an earlier than required update to improve the plan's usefulness as guide for the community's future
- Shoreline Comprehensive Plan Major Update - The City has established a program to bring inspiring speakers to Shoreline to stimulate creative thinking as the city establishes goals and policies that guide implementation of the city's adopted 2029 Vision, updated 03/22/2012
- Summer Comprehensive Plan Introduction (), 12/2010 - See "Public Participation" - "2004 Comprehensive Plan Update," "Plan Documents," and "Related Documents" sections - Interesting participation strategy included focus groups, community survey, business survey, and bus tour/critique of recent projects
- Sultan 2011 Plan Update, and public participation - Documents include update schedule and process, citizen survey, water use efficiency report, population allocation forecast, and information on various elements
- Clallam County 2004 GMA Evaluation and Update - Includes project reports, draft documents, public participation plan
- Jefferson County
- King County Public Review Draft for King County 2012 Comprehensive Plan Update - The county conducts significant revisions to its comprehensive plan on a four year cycle. The 2012 plan responses to changes suggested by the King County Strategic Plan, Sound Regional Council Vision 2040 and the revised 2011 Countywide Planning Policies
- Snohomish County Unified Development Code (UDC) Update Project, 2011 - Lists many regulations currently being updated as well as recently completed updates, and offers e-mail notification everytime web page with update news is updated
- Whatcom County 2031 - Multi-year project to update the comprehensive plan and urban growth areas (UGAs) by 2016
Ordinances Adopting Comprehensive Plan Updates
Ordinance examples from the most recent round of required comprehensive plan updates.
- Jefferson County Ordinance No. 17-1213-04 () - Amends the comprehensive plan and development regulations to comply with seven-year update requirement, 12/13/2004
- Kitsap County Ordinance No. 370-2006 () - Relating to the Growth Management Act and regarding the 10-Year update of the comprehensive plan, 12/11/2006
- Mercer Island Ordinance No. 05C-05 () - Adopts by reference amendments to the comprehensive plan, 07/05/2005
- Rock Island Ordinance No. 07- 091 () - Amends and updates the comprehensive plan, 07/26/2007 - Good small city example
- Seattle Ordinance No. 121701 - Amends the comprehensive plan to incorporate changes proposed as part of the 2004 comprehensive plan update process, 12/13/2004
- Whatcom Ordinance No. 2009-071 () - Amends the code, comprehensive plan and maps - 10-year UGA review, 11/24/2009
Annual Comprehensive Plan Amendments/Updates
In addition to the major comprehensive plan review and updates that are required every eight years, many local jurisdictions consider proposed amendments on a more frequent basis. As per RCW 36.70A.130(2) cities and counties may consider proposed amendments no more frequently than once every year, with some exceptions. Rather than adopting changes on a piecemeal basis, proposed amendments must be considered "concurrently so the cumulative effect of the various proposals can be ascertained." Local jurisdictions that consider such amendments typically establish a docket of proposed amendments that will be considered together on an annual cycle (or other specified period).
Comprehensive Plan Update Work Programs and Processes
Specific Update Topics Related to Recent Legislation or Current Issues
Related MRSC Pages
- Promotion of Physical Activity and Pedestrian & Bicycle Sub-Element - Additions to land use and transportation elements, as required by ESSB 5186
- New Mandatory Parks Element - A mandatory requirement for a park and recreation element was added to the required GMA comprehensive plan elements during the 2002 legislative session. The requirement may be found at RCW 36.70A.070(8) & (9). Although new or amended elements are to be adopted concurrent with the scheduled update provided in RCW 36.70A.130, that requirement is postponed until adequate state funding is available. See the MRSC Parks and Recreation webpages.
- New Mandatory Economic Development Element - A mandatory requirement for an economic development element was added to the required GMA comprehensive plan elements during the 2002 legislative session. The requirement may be found at RCW 36.70A.070(7) and (9). Although new or amended elements are to be adopted concurrent with the scheduled update provided in RCW 36.70A.130, that requirement is postponed until adequate state funding is available. See the MRSC Planning for Economic Development webpage.