Planners' Update Newsletter - April 2023

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april 14, 2023

Planners' Update Newsletter

Seeking Nominations for 2023 Governor’s Smart Communities Awards

The Washington State Department of Commerce is seeking nominations for the 17th annual Governor's Smart Communities Awards, a program that recognizes outstanding work by local governments and their partners on community planning and development.

Focusing on local projects with local outcomes, the last 17 years have provided amazing examples of downtown redevelopments, regional coordination on transit and tribal community engagement. Each award winner deserves to be recognized by our statewide community, and we encourage you to nominate a project in your community to share in that recognition.

Thumbnail from Smart Communities Awards video

Watch our video or visit the Smart Communities Awards webpage for more information and nomination forms. You are also welcome to email Valerie Smith with any questions at

Growth Management Act administrative rule changes take effect April 30

Phot of the WA state capitol

Commerce's Growth Management Services team concluded a comprehensive update to the administrative rules that implement the Growth Management Act (GMA) on March 29. These changes go into effect on April 30, 2023.

We initiated rulemaking in December 2020 and worked with state agencies, local governments, tribal governments, and other stakeholders to develop a project scope and consider proposed changes to the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) over the last two years. The update included revisions to the following chapters:

  • WAC 365-190: Minimum Guidelines to Classify Agriculture, Forest, Mineral Lands, and Critical Areas
  • WAC 365-195: Best Available Science
  • WAC 365-196: Procedural Criteria for Adopting Comprehensive Plans and Development Regulations

Please review the following links to learn more about the project and specific changes made to the GMA administrative code:

Additional information and earlier drafts are posted on our Growth Management Act WAC Update webpage.

Questions? Contact our project lead at

We would like to thank everyone who offered their expertise and thoughtful comments throughout the update process.

Guidance on Net-zero UGA Technical Update

As a part of new legislation in 2022, RCW 36.70a.130 was amended to allow for net-zero swaps within an Urban Growth Area (UGA) boundary.

UGA guidance (PDF) was prepared to assist you in your work on Comprehensive Plan updates.

Please review the guidance document and reach out with any questions or comments to Steve Davenport at

We anticipate new rulemaking to address the changes to UGA Swaps, including additional opportunities for public input, later this year.

Public comment period

Climate Program – Model Guidance Draft  available for comment through April 24

Commerce prepared planning guidance (Box .PDF) for adding a climate element into local comprehensive plans. Public review and comment on the draft guidance is open now through April 24, 2023.

The guidance provides cities and counties with recommendations for voluntarily developing or updating a climate element as a part of their periodic comprehensive plan update. It begins with recommendations on building a climate policy advisory team, and then provides optional pathways for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing community preparedness. All of these paths culminate in a holistic climate element, recognizing the need for climate planning and the ecological differences we all share across our many communities.

More information and resources are available on our climate program webpage.

Please email general feedback and questions to

Thank you for your feedback.

View Draft

Staff updates

Carol Holman photo

With periodic updates well underway, Carol Holman joins the Growth Management Services unit as a new Senior Planner providing technical support to Kitsap and Mason Counties, as well as several cities in King County. Prior to joining Commerce, Carol worked for the town of Friday Harbor as a current and long-range planner. Her hunger for a good challenge and passion for learning led her to graduate school in 2021. She is now in the final weeks of coursework to earn a master’s degree in Urban Planning from the University of Southern California’s Sol Price School of Public Policy. Carol resides in San Juan County with her family and enjoys spending spare time in her garden, reading as many books as possible, cooking, baking, and traveling. Reach Carol at

News from outside Commerce

DNR Update

Department of Natural Resources Logo

The Washington Geological Survey (WGS) is part of the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR). In January 2022, WGS embarked on new effort to map aggregate resources in Washington. As mentioned in February Planners Newsletter, our first project was to map aggregate resources in Kitsap County.

We are excited to share the new "Aggregate Resource Inventory of Kitsap County, Washington" (webpage) which includes a pamphlet and map sheet.

The geospatial data used to develop the map sheet are available as a zip-file download package with accompanying metadata on our Geology GIS Data and Databases website. An interactive web-based version of the Aggregate Resources Database is also available on the WGS Geologic Information Portal.

The next aggregate resource inventory will be completed for Skagit County. Initial project outreach for Skagit County was completed last fall, and project work started in March 2023. The publication timeline for this work is still being finalized.

In addition to our new Kitsap County publication, there are four existing county-scale maps and six 1:100,000-scale maps made by WGS from 2000–2015. To learn more about these projects, check out our interactive aggregate resources project status web map.

We plan to map aggregate resources in all 39 counties in Washington. We are working on a plan to prioritize and schedule future mapping areas. If you are interested in having WGS map aggregate resources in your county, we would like to hear from you!

Contact us:

Amy Rudko, Aggregate Mapper,, (360)764-6340

Tricia Sears, Geologic Planning Liaison,, (360) 628-2867


Ecology grants available for shoreline planning

Decorative shoreline image with Dept of Ecology logo

Department of Ecology Shoreline Planning Competitive Grant Program

Ecology is pleased to announce that we will be offering the Shoreline Planning Competitive Grant Program in the 2023-25 biennium. This builds on the SMP Competitive Grant Pilot Program in the 2021-23 biennium. The grant program will fund shoreline planning-related efforts that support a wide range of goals, including topics such as advancing climate resilience, improving SMP implementation, and supporting local shoreline planning priorities.

Applications will open in July 2023, so this is the perfect time start planning your project!

To get you started on thinking about project ideas, take a look at our web page for short descriptions of the projects we funded in the 2021-23 pilot grant round. All Washington counties, cities, and towns with a Shoreline Master Program may submit applications. With $3 million available statewide, we anticipate being able to fund many more proposals for this grant round than during the pilot competitive grant.

Funding guidelines and workshops:

We are in the process of finalizing our funding guidelines, and we will send out an announcement when these are complete. In the meantime, please visit our shoreline planners’ toolbox website for additional grant information and resources. We’re planning to present three informational workshops, two for local governments and one for consultants, in May and June.

Contact Rebecca Rothwell at or by phone at 360-810-0025.

Upcoming Events

16th Annual Cultural Resource Protection Summit

Hosted by the Suquamish Tribe, please sign up for this 16th annual summit taking place from May 24 & 25. Select this registration link to learn more about the agenda, keynote speakers, or to explore hybrid/remote options to participate.


REMINDER: Final Housing Guidance webinar

Don't miss our last housing guidance webinar:

"Updating Your Housing Element with HB 1220 Requirements for Land Capacity and Making Adequate Provisions" is scheduled for May 4 from 12:30 - 2 p.m.:

You can read about this and other guidance on our Updating GMA Housing Elements webpage.

Questions? Contact Laura Hodgson at


PSRC Webinar: Key Topics for Elected Officials and Planning Commissioners

Passport to 2044 logo

A part of their "Passport to 2044" update, Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) will host their next webinar on May 18 from noon to 1:30 p.m.. Please register for this online webinar training if you have an interest in critical topics for elected and appointed roles within the planning process. If you have questions, please contact Maggie Moore.

Register (Zoom)


Spring Planners' Forum dates

Our Spring Planners’ Forum schedule is here!

  • Eastern Planners’ Forum – May 10 at 9 a.m. REGISTER
  • Northwest Planners’ Forum – June 1 at 9 a.m. REGISTER
  • Southwest Planners’ Forum – May 11 at 9 a.m. REGISTER


Online: The Short Course on local planning

The Short Course on local planning offers an overview of land use planning laws in Washington, an introduction to comprehensive planning and plan implementation under the Growth Management Act (GMA), and a review of roles in planning and mandatory training on the Open Public Meetings Act for local government officials. All courses are online, free and open to the public.

  • April 20, 2023 at 1 p.m. Canceled
  • May 30, 2023 at 6 p.m. REGISTER
  • June 28, 2023 at 1 p.m. REGISTER

Ask about local presentations

Commerce also offers e-visits to local planning commissions or other meetings. Topics include, but are not limited to, comprehensive plan basics and roles in the planning process. Contact your regional planner to request a presentation.