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Federal Way Considering Multifamily Housing Code Amendments

February 10, 2017 – The city of Federal Way has been under moratorium for multifamily development since June of last year, citing the need to reevaluate its zoning standards and MF development code as the driving force. As a result, the city has released its proposed amendments to the MF Development Code. Click here for the recommended code amendments intended to accomplish the City’s vision for multi-family development as identified in the SEPA checklist (the redline changes start on page 20).

The schedule for adoption is as follows:

  • Planning commission Public Hearing – March 15, 2017
  • Land Use/Transportation Committee Public Meeting – April 3, 2017
  • City Council Public Meeting 1st Reading of Ordinance – May 2, 2017
  • City Council Public Meeting 2nd Reading of Ordinance – May 16, 2017
  • The current moratorium is now scheduled to expire on June 6, 2017.

For questions or comments, you can contact principal planner Margaret Clark at 253.835.2646 or King County Manager Jennifer Anderson at 425.460.8240.

Washington State Fire Sprinkler Coalition Forum Planned for Feb. 1

January 20, 2017 – The WA Fire Sprinkler Coalition is organizing a forum to discuss issues related to residential fire sprinklers. Builders, plumbers, and sprinkler contractors are invited to participate. The event will take place on February 1, 2017 from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. at City Hall in Redmond. The goal of this meeting will be to openly discuss resolutions on a wide range of issues and concerns. The Coalition is seeking to find consensus on sprinklers and builder feedback at this meeting will be useful to inform their discussions related to mandatory fire sprinklers. We encourage builders to attend this forum and be prepared to give your perspective on sprinklers. For more information, please contact King County Manager David Hoffman at 425.460.8224

Mercer Island Adopts Fire Sprinkler Ordinance

January 6, 2017 – On Tuesday, Jan. 3, the Mercer Island City Council voted 5-1 to adopt fire sprinklers for all new single family homes and substantial remodels. Your Association lobbied against this mandate, providing information to Councilmembers used to defeat a similar push in Kirkland in mid-2016. The City already had in place a series of restrictions that resulted in mandatory sprinklers throughout the Island, including square footage, low fire flow, and access. These triggers resulted in 85-90 percent of the homes on Mercer Island being built with sprinklers prior to the mandate’s adoption. For more information, please contact King County Manager David Hoffman at 425.460.8224


Snohomish County Utilities to Develop Green Building Incentive Program

February 10, 2017 – Snohomish County PUD has identified MBA Built Green as their partner in offering green building incentives to the industry. Your Association in partnership with Snohomish County PUD and Puget Sound Energy welcome your input to identify incentives relevant to your projects in Snohomish County. Please share your ideas with Leah Missik, your Association Built Green Program Manager, at 425.460.8238.

Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Bill Addressing Hirst Decision

January 27, 2017 – SB 5239 was heard by the Senate Agriculture, Water, Trade, and Economic Development Committee this week and is supported by the MBA, BIAW, Realtors, rural property owners, and a number of other stakeholders. This bill is in response to the recent Washington Supreme Court “Hirst” Decision. It would amend the GMA to allow local jurisdictions to rely on Department of Ecology’s water resources rules when approving a building permit, subdivision, dedication, or short subdivision to determine if there is available potable water. If adopted, the bill also provides that a permit-exempt groundwater withdrawal may not be deemed or considered to be causing impairment or injury to a minimum flow or other similar policy established by Ecology, regardless of the policy's priority date. Finally, the bill amends the building permit statute and the subdivision statute to say reliance on adopted instream flow rules is evidence of proof for water availability. For more information, please contact Nick Harper, Senior Director of Strategy & Policy, at 425.460.8207.

Snohomish County Launches Exempt Well Permit Page, Publishes Bulletin

January 20, 2017 – Snohomish County Planning and Development Services (PDS) has launched an informational webpage that may assist those concerned about use of exempt wells in light of the recent Hirst Decision. In addition, the site provides links to its Assistance Bulletin and a document permit applicants will be asked to sign that acknowledges the permit does not warranty or guarantee future availability of water. It is our understanding other counties will be asking applicants to sign similar documents.

The page can be accessed here.

MBA Testifies in Support of Kent Stormwater Manual Update

January 16, 2017 – This week at the Kent City Council your Association testified in favor of the amended version of the city’s stormwater manual. The changes clarified the allowance of vaults in subdivisions, amended the manual to mirror King County’s manual to allow 75% of pond perimeters to be walls, and the 15-foot embankments to encroach into the 10-foot critical area buffer and/or the pond landscape setbacks. Combined, these changes will result in greater densities and help increase the number of homes built in Kent. The effective date for the updated manual is 60 days after adoption, which is Saturday, March 18. It is not yet known if the city will enforce the new manual beginning on Friday, March 17 or Monday March 20.  For more information, please contact King County Manager David Hoffman at 425.460.8224

Exempt Well Decision Hurting Rural Property Owners

November 4, 2016 – The recent state Supreme Court Hirst decision has rural property owners who rely on exempt wells for water and development potential scrambling for solutions. In short, the decision says counties can no longer rely on state Department of Ecology rules regarding water availability, they must make their own determinations if there is adequate water before permitting exempt wells. While some counties are acting quickly to interpret the decision, others, such as Snohomish County, are collecting information before acting. Early consensus among stakeholders is that state legislative action will be needed to address the ruling to remove what may in effect be a building moratorium for many rural property owners. Such legislation would be complex, involving amendments to the Growth Management Act and codes related to permitting, water, and sub-divisions. Our primary message to local government is to not act precipitously. To follow a useful MSRC blog on the topic, click here. For more information, please contact Snohomish County Manager Mike Pattison at 425.460.8203.


MBA Releases Housing Attainability Issue Brief

February 28, 2017 – Lack of land supply and other barriers to new home construction have contributed significantly to escalating housing costs and a housing supply shortage in King and Snohomish counties. It is a regional issue that is making it increasingly difficult for families and job seekers to find attainable housing near employment centers. The Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties has prepared this issue brief to discuss ways we can make housing more attainable and make the Growth Management Act work as intended. Separately, the MBA created an informational piece providing a higher-level view of steps needed to create a healthier, more sustainable balance between housing supply and demand. For more information, please contact Senior Policy Analyst Allison Butcher at 425.460.8223.

Seattle City Council Approves U-District Upzone

February 24, 2017 – On Tuesday, Feb. 21, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to allow University District building heights to increase up to 320 feet on streets near a planned light rail station and up to 240 feet in other areas. The upzone, which has been in the works for years, is the first case to trigger a new requirement that developers either include affordable apartments in their projects or pay to help the city build them elsewhere. According to the Seattle Times, some citizens fear the upzone will turn the U District into an upscale neighborhood and push out lower income renters, while others believe the upzone will help the area absorb more residents and jobs by concentrating growth near the UW campus and light rail station. Earlier this month, the council’s land-use committee voted to postpone changes on University Way Northeast (“The Ave”) until a study requested by local small business owners is completed to determine how the upzone would affect them. The land use committee next takes up the South Lake Union and Downtown upzones. Stay tuned. For more information, contact External Relations Manager Patricia Akiyama at 425.457.7067.

Duvall Approves Resolution to Move Forward with North UGA Annexation

January 20, 2017 – On Tuesday, Jan. 17, the Duvall City Council voted to approve a resolution to allow the annexation process for the North Urban Growth Area to move forward. This resolution lays the framework for pre-annexation agreements (PAA) for development in other annexation areas in the City. This year, the City expects to update its unified development regulations, which includes sensitive areas regulations, tree protection regulations, residential density calculation formulas, and landscaping standards. The PAAs will include provisions to comply with these code and policy updates that have yet to be established. Click here for the resolution adopted on Jan. 17. For more information, contact King County Manager Jennifer Anderson at 425.460.8240.


MBA Backing Washington SHARES Act to Address Housing Affordability

January 27, 2017 – Lack of buildable land, low housing inventory, and skyrocketing prices continue to impact families in many parts of Washington State. To address this, the MBA is supporting SB 5254, the Washington SHARES (Supporting Housing Affordability and Real Estate Supply) Act. SB 5254 was heard in the Senate Local Government Committee on Thursday, Jan. 26. The MBA signed in and testified in support along with other stakeholders in the real estate industry, including Washington REALTORS. This omnibus bill makes a number of positive changes in an effort to improve housing affordability, including improving the process by which counties conduct their buildable land reports; streamlining permitting and environmental review for certain residential development projects; and clarifying that Puget Sound Regional Council growth targets are minimums to be achieved, rather than maximum growth levels. For more information, please contact Nick Harper, Senior Director of Strategy & Policy, at 425.460.8207.


Bothell Adopts Reduced School Impact Fee

December 16, 2016 – On Tuesday, Dec. 13, the Bothell City Council followed Snohomish County’s lead and adopted a school impact fee of $7,000 for the year 2017. The amount allowed by the Northshore School District’s capital facilities plan is $10,563. Members building in the District’s boundaries will save $3,563 per unit. Bothell’s fees are updated on an annual basis where Snohomish County’s follow a two-year cycle. Members are reminded, however, that in 2018 the fees may climb to the higher figure. For more information, contact North Snohomish County Manager Mike Pattison, 425.460.8203.

MBA Helps Defeat Proposed Seattle Head Tax

November 18, 2016 – This week, your Association successfully advocated against a "head tax" proposed by Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold as a budget amendment to fund Seattle's Office of Labor Standards (OLS) - though she was careful to call it a "fee." The city imposed an employee head tax in 2006 but repealed it in 2009 to encourage job creation. With job growth now booming in Seattle, some council members wanted to resurrect the tax without a compelling reason. Both Mayor Murray and Council Budget Chair Burgess proposed balanced budgets that would fund the OLS out of the general fund - no head tax required. Your Association agreed with this approach and asked the council not to impose an unnecessary tax on businesses in the city. The proposal was defeated by one vote so the issue may return in the future. If so, we will join with the business community to argue that Herbold's fee is a tax. There are constitutional and state limits on city taxes and there are requirements that a fee must pay for a related service, in part to ensure that the fee is being used to directly cover the costs of regulation, rather than simply used to raise more money. We will continue to closely monitor this issue on members’ behalf. For more information, contact External Relations Manager Patricia Akiyama at 425.457.7067.

Snohomish County Adopts 1-Year School Impact Fee Cap

November 18, 2016 – This week, the Snohomish County Council adopted an emergency ordinance that caps school impact fees at $7,000 for 2017. The measure softened a proposed increase from $0 to $10,563 by the Northshore School District. In 2018, the fee will increase to the higher amount. Other school districts in the County are not affected as their fees are below the $7,000 threshold. The Council also adopted a Budget Note that directs county staff to review and report on the school impact fee formula that calculates the various fees. The MBA and its members have long had concerns about the fairness of the calculus. For more information, contact North Snohomish County Manager Mike Pattison, 425.460.8203.


Duvall Adopts 60-Day Emergency Moratorium on Residential Plat Applications

February 24, 2017– On Tuesday, Feb. 21, the Duvall City Council adopted an emergency moratorium on residential preliminary plat applications. The City Council cited staff workload and a desire to complete code updates as the driving force. Specifically, the moratorium is intended to allow staff time to develop updates to its tree retention policies and Sensitive Areas Ordinance, as well as transportation and stormwater codes that will serve as requirements for future preliminary plat applications. Click here to view the ordinance as adopted by the City Council. Mayor Will Ibershof and Councilmember Amy Ockerlander were the only elected officials to have advance knowledge of the ordinance; all others were surprised by this emergency action.

If you have a project that is impacted by this moratorium, please reach out to King County Manager Jennifer Anderson. It’s important to voice your concerns and the impact this will have on your project. The more opposition we can generate, the more traction we will have toward resolving this sooner than later. Members are encouraged to reach out to the City Council and testify at the public hearing on March 21. Click here for the Mayor and City Council’s contact information. 

Two very important opportunities for you to express concern and opposition:

City of Duvall Town Hall Meeting
Wed., March 15, 6:30 p.m., Riverview District Education Service Center, 15510 1st Ave NE, Duvall
The City Council, Planning Commission, and staff are hosting a Town Hall meeting to discuss growth and annexations.

City Council – Moratorium Public Hearing
Tues., March 21, 7 p.m., City Council Chambers, Duvall
As required by state law, the City must hold a public hearing within 60 days of adoption. Potential 6- or 12-month extensions will be discussed at this hearing.

For more information, contact King County Manager Jennifer Anderson at 425.460.8240.

Association Members Share Frustrations, Hopes for Seattle’s Permitting Process

February 3, 2017 – Several MBA members were recently invited to share their experiences and to recommend improvements during stakeholder interviews for the City of Seattle’s Permit System Integration Strategy. The City has 29 separate departments and many administer permitting processes and are responsible for regulatory enforcement – oftentimes independently of each other. The goal of the Strategy is deliver better service to the public and to increase efficiency by integrating permitting processes across departments, increasing cross-department collaboration and reducing duplications or overlap. MBA members shared their frustrations about frequent delays, duplicative processes, lack of accountability, and lack of transparency in the permit review process. They also highlighted the long lead time required to apply, review, correct, re-review, etc. permits for each individual project they plan to build in the City. While there are some things that work well, members overall advised the City to develop a “one-stop” or “all-under-one-roof” approach to permitting that would greatly increase efficiency and reduce wait time between applying for and receiving permits. Your Association will monitor the project and its outcome and report back in the coming weeks/months. For more information, contact External Relations Manager Patricia Akiyama at 425.457.7067.

Mercer Island Considering New Residential Development Standards

January 20, 2017 – On Wednesday, Jan. 18, the Mercer Island Planning Commission discussed proposed changes to the city’s Residential Development Standards (RDS). Up for discussion were a series of amendment concepts related to tree retention requirements and setbacks. The conceptual language and worksheets may be found by clicking here. Your Association has set up a second meeting with city staff to discuss specific code language and concepts. If you are interested in getting involved in this process, please contact David Hoffman at


Snohomish County to Follow Updated DOE Guidance on NPDES Vesting

February 17, 2017 – In what should be excellent news for members, Snohomish County will begin following recently shared state Department of Ecology guidance related to issuing permits under its stormwater regulations. Since February 3, the County had been requiring nearly all permits to demonstrate compliance with the most recent update to stormwater regulations. That will now change.

Members are encouraged to contact their PDS Project Manager for questions related to specific applications. For general information, you are encouraged to contact Ken Crossman at 425.262.2227.

Below is a summary of the new guidance:

  1. Non-land disturbing activities, including interior remodels, reroofs, final plats, plumbing and mechanical permits, boundary line adjustments, unit lot subdivisions, and other applications where no land disturbing activities are proposed, do not trigger review for compliance with current stormwater drainage regulations.
  2. All permits and approvals granted under stormwater drainage regulations adopted by Snohomish County before January 22, 2016, that have not started construction by June 30, 2020, shall comply with current stormwater drainage regulations. Each phase of a multi-phased development will be assessed for its own started construction date.
  3. Development applications submitted after January 22, 2016, that trigger review for compliance with stormwater drainage regulations shall comply with current stormwater regulations, except as provided below.
  4. Development applications submitted on or after January 22, 2016, related to a development project for which all stormwater drainage systems were designed in a previous permit or approval that has not expired, shall comply with the stormwater drainage regulations applied to the previous permit for approval, provided no changes to the project are proposed that would affect the stormwater code thresholds (i.e., new + replaced hard surfaces, land disturbing activity, or a development change that would materially affect the stormwater runoff volume or quality, and provided further that the project has started construction by June 30, 2020.

For more information, contact Snohomish County Manager Mike Pattison at 425.460.8203.

State Supreme Court Order Calls for Answers on Motions for Reconsideration

February 10, 2017 – On Monday, February 6, the Washington State Supreme Court issued an Order Calling for Answer to Motion for Reconsideration in the NPDES vesting case. The petitioners have until February 21 to do so. Your Association is stepping up to the plate and submitting an amicus brief on the matter. Both King and Snohomish counties submitted the original motions for reconsideration. The MBA is hopeful the court will at a minimum clear up the great confusion their original decision has caused local jurisdictions. For more information, contact Snohomish County Manager Mike Pattison at 425.460.8203.

MBA Testifies in Support of Vesting Bill

January 27, 2017 – A public hearing was held on SB 5212 on Tuesday, Jan. 24 in the Senate Committee on Local Government, a bill designed to address many of the concerns that currently exist with the status of vesting laws here in the state of Washington. Duana Koloušková testified on behalf of the MBA in support of this bill in order to provide increased certainty and predictability for our members. For more information, please contact Nick Harper, Senior Director of Strategy & Policy, at 425.460.8207.

Counties Seek Reconsideration, Clarification of NPDES Decision

January 20, 2017 – King and Snohomish counties have submitted motions for reconsideration to the Washington State Supreme Court related to its decision on stormwater regulations and vesting.

The decision has caused uncertainty for local governments and concern about the broader implications of the ruling. The King County brief reads in part, “The County is concerned the Order could be read to apply to a wide variety of state-directed development regulations advancing environmental goals, and that in the absence of further guidance, lower courts and litigants will struggle to discern “state directed regulations from ‘truly local’ ones.”

Snohomish County’s brief expresses concern that “jurisdictions will be required to unwind preliminary plat and final plat decisions, either expressly or implicitly. These actions would run counter to the “policy of finality…”

For more information, contact North Snohomish County Manager Mike Pattison at 425.460.8203.

State Supreme Court Stormwater Decision Limits Vesting

January 6, 2017 – On Dec. 29, 2016, the Washington State Supreme Court issued its decision in Snohomish County v PCHB, which your Association participated in through an amicus brief. The Court upheld the special condition in Ecology’s NPDES Phase I Permit that requires permitting jurisdictions to apply the new stormwater regulations to a set of otherwise vested developments. The Court concluded that the stormwater regulations implemented pursuant to the Permit are not “land use control ordinances” subject to vesting statutes.

MBA is advised that the Court’s decision should be read to apply only to stormwater regulations adopted under the permit. Also noteworthy is that the Special Condition only applies if an application was filed before July 1, 2015 and no construction on that project has commenced by June 30, 2020.

Your Association will continue to work with legal counsel and other stakeholders to get a better understanding of the full ramifications of the ruling. Due to the complex nature of the decision, we would advise members to seek counsel regarding individual projects. For more information, contact North Snohomish County Manager Mike Pattison at 425.460.8203.


MBA Supports Funding Bill for Career and Technical Education

January 27, 2017 – One of the MBA’s priority bills this legislative session is SB 5183, which would increase the state's investment in career and technical education programs throughout our middle and high schools. The MBA recognizes the need for a more robust skilled workforce and this bill aims to improve the pipeline of young people interested in careers in residential home construction and related fields. A public hearing was held for SB 5183 on Monday, January 23, in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee. For more information, please contact Nick Harper, Senior Director of Strategy & Policy, at 425.460.8207.