The memorandum builds on a March 22, 2012 executive order (Executive Order No. 13604) that aims to facilitate faster regulatory reviews of proposed transportation, water resources, renewable energy, electric transmission, oil and gas pipeline, and other projects. The memorandum is available here: .
The Washington State legislature recently passed a bill that incentivizes upfront environmental planning by local governments and increases SEPA predictability for developers. This legislation will help ensure infrastructure is installed in a timely manner, consistent with adopted standards, and will add clarity for both the developer and the city on the limits and requirements of recovering costs through latecomer agreements.
The two elements of this bill are important because they improve the development process by first increasing predictability of SEPA review for certain development types and second, it provides new rules for who builds and who pays for required water and sewer infrastructure.
King County Metro and a team of partners have completed a new online calculator to help measure parking demand for multifamily projects in the Seattle-Bellevue area. This “Right Size Parking” calculator aims to reduce over-building of parking supply in urban King County based on local and context-sensitive data on parking demand.
According to the Right Size Parking website: “The calculator can help analysts, planners, developers, and community members weigh factors that will affect parking use at multi-family housing sites. It will help them consider how much parking is ‘just enough’ when making economic, regulatory, and community decisions about development.”
Current one-size-fits-all parking policies have contributed to an over-allocation of urban land to parking. A “Right Size Parking” approach would make more efficient use of urban land, reduce barriers to building mixed-use multi-family residential development in urban centers, reduce housing costs, and contribute to reductions in vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gases.
For related research on Right Size Parking approaches see King County Metro’s Right Size Parking project page.
Federal Funding Opportunities for Natural Resources, Agriculture, Alternative Energy, Water, and Energy Efficiency
Six opportunities totaling over $16.25 million in federal financial assistance were released this week, soliciting proposals in the major program areas of:
- Alternative and Renewable Energy
- Energy Efficiency
- Public Lands and Natural Resources
Van Ness Feldman's Federal Funding Resource Center is an online information tool designed to inform our clients and friends about key energy-, environment-, and resource-related federal funding opportunities across a range of federal agencies including the Departments of Energy, Defense, Agriculture, and the Interior. It compiles active federal funding opportunity announcements in one place for ease of review, and includes a Primer on the federal funding process. Please feel free to let us know how we can improve this service.
Van Ness Feldman has helped clients secure nearly $3 billion in federal funding for projects in recent years. The firm’s lawyers and policy professionals are experienced in every step of the funding process, including developing and implementing strategies for securing funding from both Congress and federal agencies, assisting with funding applications, negotiating funding agreements, and managing ongoing reporting and compliance requirements.
The Department of the Interior, in partnership with the Department of Energy, will publish the Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for solar energy development in six southwestern states—Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah.
Key elements include:
- an initial set of 17 Solar Energy Zones on 285,000 acres across 6 Western States;
- a process for industry, the public and other interested stakeholders to propose new or expanded zones; efforts already underway include California’s Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan and the West Chocolate Mountains Renewable Energy Evaluation, Arizona’s Restoration Energy Design Project, and other local planning efforts in Nevada and Colorado;
- strong incentives for development within zones, including faster and easier permitting, improved mitigation strategies, and economic incentives;
- a clear process that allows for development of well-sited projects on approximately 19 million acres outside the zones;
- protecting natural and cultural resources by excluding 78 million acres from solar energy development;
- design features (best practices) for solar energy development to ensure the most environmentally responsible development and delivery of solar energy; and
- a framework for regional mitigation plans and a strategy for monitoring and adaptive management; the first mitigation pilot for the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone is already underway.
The BLM is engaged in ongoing transmission planning efforts, including through the Transmission Expansion Planning Policy Committee and the Western Electricity Coordination Council’s transmission study.
The July 27 Federal Register Notice of Availability for the Final PEIS will begin a 30-day protest period, after which Secretary Salazar may consider adopting the document through a Record of Decision. The BLM released the Draft Solar PEIS in December 2010, and in response to the over 80,000 comments received from cooperating agencies and key stakeholders, issued a Supplement to the Draft Solar PEIS in October 2011.
The White House has released a plan for implementing a March 22, 2012 executive order (EO 13604) that directed Federal agencies to streamline procedures for approving energy, transportation, and other infrastructure projects. The plan calls on all Federal agencies involved in approving infrastructure projects to publish by July 31 a list of their review and permitting responsibilities, as well as the time currently required to complete project review and permitting.
By December 31, 2012, agencies will be required to post targets for reducing those processing times. The plan also outlines a number of other actions the Administration intends to take, including development of performance metrics for Federal agencies; providing up-to-date online information on the status of infrastructure project reviews and approvals; and expediting the processing of projects of national or regional significance.
On the final day of the Washington State 2012 Special Session, 2ESSB 6406 was passed by the House and Senate and is on its way to the Governor’s desk. In a session light on land use issues, some have called this bill the most significant land use bill of the session.
The bill was able to survive this tough session in part because it introduced new fees and raises existing fees for certain natural resource approvals. Some specific features of the bill are listed below.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just released a report assessing the feasibility of incorporating climate change impacts into planning and decision-making for land preservation efforts by government agencies and nonprofit land trusts.
The report reviewed existing decision-making processes for selected land protection programs and suggested strategies for better incorporating climate change into those processes. These strategies include “new decision-support tools for advisory committees, promulgation of different land protection models, and educational outreach for elected officials.” This report underscores the need for strategic (rather than opportunistic) selection of protected parcels and land preservation tools in order to create a “portfolio of climate adaptation options.”
This conclusion is consistent with findings in a recent report prepared for the Washington State Recreation Office, which concluded that permanent land preservation tools “give the state a portfolio of conservation equity, which can be retained or liquidated and re-invested as part of an overall adaptive management approach.”
Attorney Duncan Greene discusses Tax Increment Financing and Transfer of Development Rights in the latest issue of the Puget Sound Section of the American Planning Association's newsletter.
A recent New York Times article raises some interesting questions about how US cities might tackle increasing traffic congestion and subsequent pollution—by following the urban planning of many European cities, where trends are to make driving as irritating as possible, thereby almost forcing individuals to choose public transportation.
Interesting concept—plan a city/development around people NOT cars. Could Seattle follow the lead of our southern neighbor San Francisco? Perhaps the Burke-Gilman trail could be rebranded as Seattle’s next highway…
Touted as anti-sprawl and as more sustainable than other forms of single family housing, Seattle-based architect Ross Chapin has compared cottages to the Mini Cooper: “smart, sensual, well-engineered and reliable.”
Successful cottage developments in urban areas bode well for Growth Management because they represent a creative and usually attractive way to add density. However, cottage housing developments built in the urban fringes, or in rural areas, could just as well be sprawl dressed in a new more stylish outfit.
Even when housing is clustered at urban-like densities it may be placed in a neighborhood without easy access to goods and services, meaning its residents will be as car-dependent as ever. A Mini Cooper can’t be considered an economy car, and though cottages are smaller, they are not necessarily highly affordable. Cottage housing ordinances often include specific design standards to make sure cottages are architecturally pleasing and high quality. The extra design costs often outweigh savings gained through smaller lots or fewer building materials.
We should expect to see the pocket neighborhood continue to be a popular choice for retiring boomers or small families looking for the coziness of an urban neighborhood. However, building urban-scale housing does not automatically make an urban environment.
The City of Issaquah recently announced a complex agreement involving a transfer of development rights (TDR) transaction that will preserve more than 140 acres of forested land in and around the City, including the entire Park Pointe area at the base of Tiger Mountain. Several years ago, a developer had proposed to build hundreds of homes at Park Pointe. The TDR agreement shifts new development away from Park Pointe and into the area around the Issaquah Highlands master-planned community.
This project, like many other TDR success stories in Washington State, was the result of fairly unique and fortuitous circumstances. Land conservation efforts always require vision and dedication, and in this case, local officials, planners, and other partners worked for years to preserve Park Pointe. However, as reported in the Issaquah Press, a key factor in the ultimate success of the project was the recession: between early 2009 and late 2010, the property’s value dropped from $18.9 million to around $6 million.
Kitsap’s population grew 8.3% over the past ten years placing it 11th from the bottom in population growth rates among Washington’s 39 counties. Perhaps the lack of population pressure contributed to Kitsap County’s decision to consider prohibiting Fully Contained Communities, as authorized by the Washington Growth Management Act.
In concept, a Fully Contained Community (FCC) is a development incorporating urban-style housing, businesses, and jobs in a defined rural area. In some cases, these communities may be constructed adjacent to (and subsequently incorporated into) an existing town or City, such as Snoqualmie Ridge, Issaquah Highlands ,and the most recent Yarrow Bay project approved in Black Diamond.
The idea is that the urban impacts of the development will be prevented from spilling into the rural surroundings. In some cases, starting from scratch with new planning and urban infrastructure may be more cost-effective than trying to retrofit the same growth within existing infill neighborhoods: it’s sometimes easier to draw a pretty picture on a clean slate.
As discussed in "Smart Growth = Better Bottom Line?", recent studies demonstrate that dense, mixed-use urban development centered around public transit ("smart growth") can translate into economic gains for local businesses, citizens, and the government. An additional cost-saving tool also available to eligible cities passed last year: the "Compact, High-Density Urban Development" bill.
Although a participating city must follow a number of requirements, the SEPA cost savings and "no appeal" incentive for developers are significant.
This month the Center for Clean Air Policy released a study Growing Wealthier: Smart Growth, Climate Change and Prosperity which argues that “smart growth” can lead to economic gains by the private sector, governments, and local citizens . “Smart growth” describes development that reduces suburban sprawl, makes efficient use of public utilities, and fosters mixed-use and dense development patterns. Advocates aim to create communities where it is possible to walk or use alternative forms of transportation to meet daily needs.
Chuck Kooshian, principal author of the CCAP study, recently discussed these findings citing that smart growth-related developments, such as light rail stations, compact residential developments, and mixed residential and retail developments, have led to localized increases in property values, compared to other areas of the same city where these investments were not made. Beyond property value increases, Growing Wealthier also points to savings felt in smart growth by way of fuel costs and infrastructure costs, as well as increases in retail sales and tax revenues and induced private investment. Each of these economic benefits were shown to result from land use planning that discouraged sprawl, and created walkable, well-connected, and mixed use urban environments.
On Thursday, Ron Sims was back in Seattle to award HUD’s first Sustainable Communities Planning Grants. The Puget Sound Regional Council was awarded a grant of $5 million and Thurston County Regional Planning Council was awarded a grant of $1.5 million. Congratulations!
The Sustainable Communities Planning Grant is part of the Sustainable Communities Initiative, a joint HUD/DOT/EPA effort aimed at improving regional planning efforts that integrate housing and transportation decisions, and increase the capacity to improve land use and zoning. This Initiative is the first time the federal government has formally recognized the need to coordinate planning disciplines at a national level.
It is surely no coincidence that Washington’s own Ron Sims has been involved in forming the Sustainable Communities Initiative. Since 1990, Washington State has been planning under the Growth Management Act, which recognizes the intersection of multiple planning disciplines by requiring local comprehensive plans to include land use, housing, transportation, capital facilities, and utilities elements.