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Published on Monday, February 23, 2015

Cutoff in the land use and environmental portfolio

The first policy cutoff is always a bittersweet time of year for those of us on the ground in Olympia. Usually it represents a mixed bag of good bills that died before their time, and bad bills mercifully put down for the year. This year the report is again mixed.

Good bills still moving

Latecomer authority (HB 1911/SB 5795) came out of the Senate Government Operations Committee on the last possible day after moving a few days earlier in the House. We have reached an agreement with the development community on the provisions of this bill. The agreement is reflected in the Senate language and we expect that the House language will be amended to reflect it as well as it moves through the process.

Similarly the agreed to compromise on an appeal mechanism for property owners facing expensive sewer connections when their septic systems fail (HB 2010 and SB 5871) have moved from both chambers and now sit in the Rules committees.

Problematic bills that are still moving include

Bills mandating impact fee deferrals (HB 1709 and SB 5923) both came out of their policy committees. In the House city requested amendments mitigating some of the financial exposure and limiting the scope of this responsibility were adopted. We expect further conversation with the proponents as these bills move forward. The Senate bill that moved included new requirements for the state to monitor and report on the use of impact fees in local communities.

The proposal to extend the buildable lands report requirement to all GMA-planning cities and counties (SB 5604) advanced from the Senate committee with an amendment that moderated some of the proposed changes to the analysis, including the requirement that would have necessitated evaluating whether adjusting the UGA boundaries was a preferred response to addressing a lack of developable land.

Although the House declined to move HB 1394, relating to reinstituting common law vesting standards, the companion bill SB 5921 did move from the Senate committee. AWC will continue to express our concern for this proposal which introduces significant new confusion into the permitting process.

Bills that appear dead

HB 1102 and SB 5055 would have required cities to pay the entire cost of sewer connection for homeowners who had septic repair permits denied because of a local connection ordinance. That bill has been put down in favor of the appeals bill discussed earlier.

HB 1158 would have allowed counties to opt into superior court review rather than GMA hearings boards for GMA cases. The bill did not advance from the House Local Government committee.