Northwest NEWS

May 25, 1998

Local News

County to use 'plain English'

  by Woodinville Weekly staff

   SEATTLE--Ever get a notice from King County about a land use change and try and make sense of technolese terms such as "docketing, "zoned density" and "transportation concurrency needs?" Relief is finally on the way. Recently, the King County Council unanimously passed new rules that include explaining its land use laws in "plain English." It was part of a measure that improves the county's public participation process in Comprehensive Plan changes. The plan guides growth management decisions in the county.
   "The goal here is to take the mystery out of land use law," said Councilmember Brian Derdowski (R-Issaquah) in a press release. "Someone shouldn't have to hire a lawyer or a lobbyist in order to understand what is happening to their land or neighborhood." The "plain English" section requires all amendments to the comp plan or development regulations to come with a detailed description of what they would do in non-technical terms.
   An example of the change from techno-babble to easier to understand language can be seen in staff reports to the council's Growth Management, Housing and Environment Committee.
   Before: "Proposed Ordinance 96-497 amends Title 20 to comply with the state GMA requirements for: amending a [comp] plan, providing for an enhanced public participation program to include the broad dissemination of information, and, provisions for a docketing process to identify policy and regulatory deficiencies."
   After: "Proposed substitute ordinance 96-947 addressees four main issues: 1) Establishes time frames for review of amendments to the comp plan. 2) Establishes a process for property specific land use map amendments. 3) Establishes a 'docket' process for the public to suggest changes to the comp plan and development regulations. 4) Establishes a public participation program for comp plan and development regulation amendments."
   Oh. The Council-approved measure also mandates use of the county's Internet site ( to inform residents about changes to the comp plan. County staff wants to use the web site for visual depiction's of what the changes would mean. "This is a unique use of new technology that will improve communication between the county and residents who could be affected by any land use changes," said Councilmember Jane Hague who chairs the Growth Management Committee which sent the measure to the council after two years of discussion. "The state Growth Management Act requires early and good public notice of proposed changes to the plan-this plan does that," said Hague. The new rules extends the number of days for notification to the public of public hearings from 20 to 30 days as well.