September Planners’ Newsletter

Having trouble viewing this email? View it online

sept. 19, 2023

September Planners’ Newsletter

Wine grape harvest environmental photo

Harvest season fun with Commerce planners

With summer on the run and fall fast approaching, Commerce is laying out a busy harvest schedule for our planning goals with attendance at several fall conferences. Our senior planners are collaborating on conference sessions focusing on housing, climate, and more.

If you’d like to connect with us (PDF), we’re always available, but expect to see us in person at each of the following events:




It's a busy season with many important touchpoints for collaboration. Stay tuned as we dish out more fall favorites in the next few months.

Apply for climate and housing grants now!

Commerce has two new grant application periods that will close next month. Both our Climate Planning grant and Connecting Housing to Infrastructure Program (CHIP) grant each close their current application cycle at 5:00 p.m. on Oct. 31, 2023.

Please check our GMS Grants webpage for new Growth Management Services grant opportunities. If you missed it, we published a special edition funding newsletter in August focused on these current and upcoming funding opportunities. Keep watching for more grant updates as we move through the year.

Housing update

We have numerous housing updates, starting with new outreach and guidance.

Middle housing model ordinance process includes a virtual open house

HB 1110 (2023) requires Commerce to publish model ordinances to implement middle housing no later than Jan. 23, 2024. In addition to stakeholder meetings, we are offering a virtual open house for city staff, elected and appointed officials, and the public to ask questions about new laws around middle housing and Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). We are offering meeting times that will accommodate most schedules. In November, we will host a webinar to present about our work on the model ordinance to-date and to take your comments and questions.

Join the Zoom Meeting at the following dates and times:

  • Open houses
    • Sept. 21 at 1 p.m.
    • Oct. 5 at 4:30 p.m.
    • Oct. 19 at 1 p.m.
  • Public webinar - Nov. 9 at 1:30 p.m.

For more information, see our Middle Housing Web Page.

Draft Displacement Risk Map – Public Comment through Sept. 29

Commerce developed a Draft Displacement Risk Map to support jurisdictions with the new housing element requirements. This map will help jurisdictions meet GMA requirements to “identify areas that may be at higher risk of displacement from market forces.”

We also hosted a webinar on Sept. 7 to share our methodology and answer questions about the new map.

View Draft Displacement Risk Map webinar recording (Vimeo)

Visit Updating GMA Housing Elements webpage for more information.

Questions? Please send any comments or questions to Laura Hodgson at by Sept. 29.

Final Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) guidance

HB 1337, enacted in the 2023 legislative session, requires all local governments planning under the Growth Management Act to allow up to two accessory dwelling units on all lots within urban growth areas, unless critical areas or other factors impact them.

View the final ADU guidance or visit the Middle Housing webpage

Commerce is hiring!

Middle housing, climate planning and more with the Growth Management Services team

Check out these new middle housing positions. We have two positions (one part time, one full time), to help administer the middle housing grant program and support cities as they work on middle housing and ADU development regulations. Apply by Sept. 28, 2023.

The climate team is also looking to fill more planning and grant related positions. See the full list of job postings for Growth Management Services.

Mischa Venables headshot photo

New staff spotlight

Welcome Mischa Venables to the housing team!

Please welcome Mischa Venables (she/her). Mischa joined our Connecting Housing to Infrastructure Program (CHIP) team as a contract manager. Born and raised in Mill Creek, WA, Mischa now lives in the Wenas Valley, between Ellensburg and Selah with her husband and two daughters. She has a background in real estate, accounting, and management with the past six years as the accounting manager for Yakima County Superior Court Clerk’s office.

“I am ecstatic to have the opportunity to help strengthen our communities and be a part of such a crucial mission to facilitate the development of affordable housing," Mischa said.

News from outside Commerce

Dept of Ecology logo

New Critical Areas Ordinance Coordinator

Emily Atkins has been hired as the new Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) Coordinator for the Department of Ecology. Emily is a Washington transplant who fell in love with our beautiful state and never looked back. She has worked in a variety of environmental fields including: restoration, enforcement and outreach. Emily is excited to be permanent part of the wetlands team.

Ecology’s CAO Coordinator assists local governments in their efforts to use best available science to adopt or update regulations that protect wetlands and their functions.  As part of our agency’s efforts to assist local governments, Ecology reviews the wetland chapters of draft CAO’s and meets with local planning staff and consultants. Please contact Emily at eatk461@ECY.WA.GOV when you’re planning an update to your wetlands regulations.

Department of Natural Resources Logo

WA100: Your virtual guide to Washington's geologic wonders

Do you want to know more about cool places in Washington? Are you trying to decide on your next weekend adventure or do you already have a destination in mind? The WA100 website will provide a new perspective as you explore Washington's most spectacular places.

With the WA100, you can gain a deeper understanding of Washington’s geologic origins! Yes, it’s fun geology time! This website unravels the epic geologic stories of 100 publicly accessible sites in Washington. It has cool stories, fun facts, and thousands of photos, graphics, animations, videos, and maps. Check it out!  Washington 100 | WA - DNR

Washington State Department of Health

The Washington State Department of Health would like you to save the date on September 19 & 20 for their Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) Forum. PFAS are a large family of human-made chemicals in use since the 1950s that can take a long time to break down in water supplies. You can attend the forum online or in-person with focused topic discussions on source identification, treatment, surface water, wastewater, water reclamation and more.

View ODW PFAS Save the date flyer (PDF) to learn more and access DOH resources.

Thurston Regional Planning logo

Events and Training

2025 Workshop Series 

Commerce is partnering with the Thurston Regional Planning Council and the Municipal Research and Services Center to bring you workshops on various planning topics to support jurisdictions with updates due in 2025.

Climate Planning Webinars

When: Sept. 21 and Oct. 19 from 10 a.m. to noon.

Where: Online via Zoom

Learn more and register:

September 21 Climate Workshop flyer (PDF)
REGISTER for Sept. workshop webinar (Zoom)

October 19 Climate Workshop flyer. (PDF)
REGISTER for Oct. workshop webinar (Zoom)

Each workshop in the 2025 series will feature a different periodic update topic. Watch the periodic update webpage for future workshop information and registration.

Questions? Contact Suzanne Austin, Senior Planner, at

Fall Planners’ Forum schedule coming soon

The Planners’ Forums are quarterly events held regionally across Washington state and in partnership with both the Washington APA and the Planners Association of Washington. Each one features guest speakers discussing planning related topics in association with American Planning Association guidelines. While regionally focused, the forums are typically on Zoom and available for statewide attendances.

  • SW Washington Fall Planners’ Forum – Oct. 26, 9 to 11:45 a.m. Register for Oct. 26 Planners' Forum

Remember, you can earn American Planning Association (AICP) credits for attending based on the topics covered.

Learn more on our Growth Management Planners’ Forums webpage.

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.

Next in-person course:

  • APA Washington annual conference - Oct. 10 at 6 p.m.
    Davenport Grand Hotel in Spokane.
    Register to attend this free training.

Online-only (Zoom) courses:

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 (PDF) to request a presentation.