County Council passes regulatory reform package
by Jeff Switzer
In response to the regulatory reform bill passed last summer by the State legislature, the King County Council passed its reform package ordinance on Apr. 1 by a vote of 13-0, speeding up the permitting and environmental review process and working towards eliminating county red tape.
According to Councilmember Chris Vance, the ordinance eliminates duplication between state and county law by allowing some county regulations in the zoning code to suffice for environmental mitigation on property located within the urban growth area.
"As much as King County is known for its scenery, it is also known for its costly, time-consuming, and duplicitous regulatory process," Vance said. "Passage of these reforms means King County's environment and quality of life will continue to be preserved and enhanced, but in a manner that owes more to common sense than to regulation for regulation's sake."
Councilmember Louise Miller said it went from being a riot over this ordinance to being 13-0. "We're all pretty happy with the the ordinance," said Miller. "We put in checks and balances and established an overview committee to watch this process."
The council's action was within 24 hours of the deadline established by the state legislation. Under the ordinance, project reviews will be completed within 120 days and environmental impacts statements within 270 days. Project reviews and decisions--including the State Environmental Protection Act--are combined into a single process with one set of notices, hearings and appeals.
The ordinance had proposed rolling back the timeline on processing simple remodeling projects for individual homes, such as garage, deck, or room additions, putting them all under the 120-day timeline. But the council amended this language to allow current conditions to remain, with new single family homes seeing a 90-day process, remodels 40 days, decks and garages 15 days, SEPA-exempt clearings 45 days, and SEPA-subject clearings 90 days.
Also, notice requirements for project applications are increased, and a mandatory pre-application meeting process is established. The zoning adjuster process is eliminated under this ordinance.