Planners' Update Newsletter - September 2021

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Planners' Update Newsletter

Illustration depicting elements of climate change work

Multi-year climate change work kicks off

The Department of Commerce has been tasked by the Washington Legislature with a multi-year project to develop guidance for counties and cities to address climate change issues. Guidance for local comprehensive plans will include, but is not limited to, mitigation (greenhouse gas reduction) and resilience (preparation for adverse effects from climate change).  

Specifically, the Legislature issued a budget proviso (Section 129 (126) beginning on page 74) that appropriated more than $3 million over the next two years. These funds will support additional staff and consultants to develop and publish guidelines in the form of a model climate change element that would allow a county or city to address mitigation and resilience in a required comprehensive plan under the Growth Management Act (GMA).

This will be a multi-agency effort, with the initial product – the model elements – due by June 30, 2023. Commerce has convened a working committee for this project composed of representatives from Washington's Departments of Transportation, Ecology, Health, Fish and Wildlife, Natural Resources, and the Emergency Management Division of the Military Department.

If you would like more information about this work, please contact Dave Andersen, Managing Director of Growth Management Services (GMS), at

Task force continues collaboration on GMA reform

The Washington Legislature commissioned a continuation of the GMA reform task force, and Commerce has selected a team lead by Clay White and consultants LDC to lead this effort. Over the next two years, the team will convene the task force to develop recommendations for changes to statute to modernize and reform Washington state's growth policy planning framework.

This work is building on the work already completed under the “GMA Collaborative Roadmap” frameworks developed in prior years. In particular, the legislature directed Commerce to make a special effort to include communities often left out of the conversation. 

The task force will be relying heavily on local planners and planning directors to inform the process so that recommendations are practical and implementable. Throughout this work, the team will work with the broader community of practice.

Interested in participating? If you can offer some of your time to help with this work, please reach out to the Association of Washington Cities (AWC) - Carl Schroeder, Washington State Association of Counties (WSAC) - Paul Jewell, or the American Planning Association (APA) Washington legislative committee - Yorik Stevens-Wajda (EMAIL TO COME).

See our roadmap 

Connecting Housing to Infrastructure (CHIP) grant application opening late September

$34.6 million available to local governments and public utility districts

The Connecting Housing to Infrastructure Program (CHIP) has $34.6 million in grants available for new affordable housing projects that serve and benefit low-income households. Grant funds are intended to be supplemental project financing for necessary utility connection costs for eligible projects in cities and counties that passed a sales and use tax for affordable housing or a housing levy.

Purpose of the new CHIP grant is to support construction of additional affordable housing and to offset utility connection fees of affordable housing waived by cities. 

Who can apply: Applicant must be a city, county or public utility district, applying in coordination with the developer of affordable housing, located within a jurisdiction that imposed a sales and use tax under RCW  82.14.530(1)(a)(ii), 82.14.530(1)(b)(i)(B), 82.14.540, or 84.52.105.

The utility project must serve new affordable housing projects that benefit low-income households. The housing project should be part of a program that will monitor affordability for a minimum of 25 years.

Eligible costs are system development charges or “utility improvements” to drinking water, wastewater, or storm water improvements. Where applicable, any utility extension must be consistent with the approved comprehensive plans under the Growth Management Act and must be within the established boundaries of the urban growth area. 

Maximum grant is $2.5 million per project. No match is required, but applicants must demonstrate that all funding to complete the affordable housing project is committed prior to contract execution. 

Grant funding is from a combination of state and federal funds, including a portion of the state’s allocation of Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

Applications and instructions will be available soon. 

All materials and information will be posted to the Growth Management Services grants webpage. We will announce the application opening in a mailing to this Planners’ Newsletter mailing list.

The first round of applications will be reviewed starting Nov. 15.

Planners’ Forums

Planners’ Forums are free, open to all and often Continuing Education (CE) eligible. Upcoming Planners’ Forums and events include the following:

  • Peninsula Planners’ Forum: Thursday, Oct. 21 in the afternoon. Time and topic to be announced.
  • Eastern Planners’ Forum: Thursday, Oct. 28. Time and topic to be announced.
  • Northwest Planners’ Forum: Thursday, Oct. 28 at 8 a.m. Topics: Ethics and additional topic to be announced

Registration information and presentations from past Regional Planners’ Forums can be found on the Planners’ Forum webpage.


Register for the Short Course on local planning

The Short Course on local planning offered by the Department of Commerce offers an overview of land use planning laws in Washington state, an introduction to comprehensive planning and plan implementation under the Growth Management Act and a review of the roles in planning and mandatory training on the Open Public Meetings Act for local government officials. All courses are offered at no charge and are open to the public.

Here is the schedule for the remainder of 2021 with registration links: 






Thursday, 9/30/2021

6-9 p.m.



Monday, 10/18/2021

1-4 p.m.



Tuesday, 11/30/2021

6-9 p.m.



Thursday, 12/16/2021

1-4 p.m.


Request a ZOOM meeting. Commerce also offers e-visits to local planning commissions or other meetings. Contact your regional planner with requests for presentations on topics such as comprehensive plan basics and roles in the planning process.

Mark your calendar: Fall planning conferences

It’s almost conference time! If you have not already done so, this is a great time to start planning for upcoming conferences.

  • 2021 American Planning Association (APA)-WA / Oregon-APA Joint Conference (Virtual) – Oct.13-15
    The conference schedule is posted and registration is now open (clicking on the registration link will take you to the Oregon APA site since this is a joint conference).
  • 2021 Infrastructure Assistance Coordinating Council Conference (Virtual) – Oct.19-21
    Registration and the conference schedule are available online here. Please register by Oct. 7.
  • Planning Association of Washington Conference (In-Person) – November 15-16.
    Registration is now live. Sessions will be recorded for those who are unable to or do not wish to attend in-person.

Grant application windows closing soon!

  • Flood Control Assistance Grants (Ecology) 
    The 2021 Legislature has restored the local Flood Control Assistance Account Program (FCAAP) grant after a 12-year hiatus. The grant program through the Department of Ecology (Ecology) has a total of $1.5 million available. The application period for the 2021-23 FCAAP funding cycle will be open through Sept. 30, 2021. Interested applicants of flood control assistance funding must apply through EAGL, Ecology’s Administration of Grants and Loans online system, before 5 p.m. Sept. 30, 2021.

  • Complete Streets Grants (Transportation Improvement Board)
    Commerce will be nominating up to ten cities or counties for the Transportation Improvement Boards’ (TIB) “Complete Streets Award.” The application can be found here and more information on the grant is located on the TIB page. Jurisdictions with current populations of 10,000 or less are encouraged to apply. TIB should make the final grant awards (between $100,000 and $1,000,000) in January 2022.
    Send completed applications electronically to Commerce by Oct. 1, 2021. Email completed applications and any questions or comments to Kirsten Larsen or call (360) 280-0320.

  • Housing Action Plan and Implementation (HAPI) Grants (Commerce)
    Growth Management Services (GMS) has $5 million available for cities to adopt new Housing Action Plans (HAPs) and to implement strategies from adopted HAPs or housing plans. Jurisdictions over 20,000 in population will be eligible for grants of up to $100,000, while cities under 20,000 in population will be evaluated next for a maximum of $75,000 per grant. Applications are due by 5 p.m. Oct. 7, 2021. Find the grant application form and instructions here.

  • Transit-Oriented Development Implementation (TODI) Grants (Commerce)
    GMS has $2.5 million available for cities to facilitate transit-oriented development in areas with light rail or fixed rail systems, bus rapid transit, high frequency bus service or park and ride lots. Grant funding is for cities to prepare SEPA environmental impact statements, planned action ordinances, subarea plans, costs associated with the use of other tools under SEPA, and costs of local code adoption and implementation of such efforts. Grants of up to $250,000 will be available per jurisdiction. Applications are due by 5 p.m. Oct. 7, 2021.  The grant application form and instructions are located here.

  • Shoreline Master Program Competitive Grant Pilot Program (Ecology)
    Ecology is piloting a new competitive grant program that will support shoreline planning and planning-related efforts. Find information on this funding opportunity on the Shoreline Planners Toolbox website under the “grants” header and on Ecology’s SMP Competitive Grant website. $827,000 is available and Ecology anticipates funding 12 to 20 proposals. The maximum amount that may be requested per project is $100,000. The application period closes Oct. 14, 2021.

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Do you have new staff or know of someone who would like to know about planning news in Washington?  If so, please encourage them to sign up for the Commerce Planners’ Update newsletter by visiting the main Department of Commerce webpage. Scroll to the bottom of the page to the "subscribe" area, enter your email and click "submit" to choose subscriptions you would like to receive. For this newsletter, under “Public Infrastructure,” select “Growth Management.” You may unsubscribe from any topic at any time.