Northwest Land Matters

Northwest Land Matters

Developments in Energy, Natural Resources & Environmental, Real Estate, and Land Use Law in the Pacific NW

Category Archives: Land Use

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Planning the Future of Your Farm

Posted in Growth Management Act, Land Use, Uncategorized
The Washington Conservation Commission’s Office of Farmland Preservation recently published Planning the Future of Your Farm, a workbook for families who want to keep their farmland in production and/or “in the family” as it passes to the next generation.  Among other tools, the publication addresses how to navigate the challenges families face in managing the… Continue Reading

Mazama Pocket Gopher Threatened

Posted in Development, Environmental, Land Use, Municipal
The Mazama pocket gopher is officially “threatened” in Thurston and Pierce counties.  After many years of debate, environmental studies, and litigation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) finally announced the listing of four subspecies of Mazama pocket gophers as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), as well as the designation of more than… Continue Reading

Marijuana Zoning Issues Heating Up

Posted in Land Use, Municipal, Uncategorized
It appears that getting the green light to operate a marijuana business depends on your zip code. Some local governments in Washington are taking action to ban medical and recreational marijuana operations, while others are permitting or even attempting to encourage marijuana businesses.  Jurisdictions permitting marijuana businesses may be welcoming decisions by others to adopt marijuana bans,… Continue Reading

Federal Agencies Issue Proposed Rule Redefining Clean Water Act Jurisdiction

Posted in Development, Environmental, Land Use, Water Law
Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) released the long-awaited Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) redefining the federal Clean Water Act’s (CWA) definition of “waters of the United States.”  The NOPR will likely affect project development and operations across the energy, construction, and building sectors. EPA and… Continue Reading

White House Memorandum Aims to Speed Up Infrastructure Permitting

Posted in Development, Land Use, Land Use Planning, Municipal
On May 17, the White House issued a memorandum that directs federal agencies to “do what it takes to cut timelines for breaking ground on major infrastructure projects in half.” 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… Continue Reading

New Legislation Aids Environmental Planning/Development

Posted in Development, Growth Management Act, Land Use, Land Use Planning
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… Continue Reading

EPA Proposes Best Management Practices to Control Erosion at Construction Sites

Posted in Development, Environmental, Land Use
The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing that construction companies use best management practices in lieu of numerical turbidity limits to control the volume and velocity of stormwater runoff to prevent erosion at construction sites. In the proposed rule, to be published in the April 1 Federal Register, EPA said it will no longer require builders… Continue Reading

King County Creates Right Size Parking Tool

Posted in Development, Land Use, Land Use Planning
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… Continue Reading

Climate, Energy, & Air Update January 2013

Posted in Climate Change, Development, Environmental, Land Use, Water Law
Our Climate, Energy, & Air Update is intended as a general summary of major policy developments that we judge to be of interest to a broad range of our clients and friends.   This month’s edition features discussion on the following: The D.C. Circuit invalidates the cellulosic biofuel volume requirements for the 2012 Renewable Fuel Standard… Continue Reading

Sound Transit Receives Environmental Excellence Award

Posted in Development, Environmental, Land Use, Water Law
Washington State Department of Ecology  awarded VNFGD client Sound Transit the Environmental Excellence Award for its role in the Qwuloolt estuary restoration project. The Environmental Excellence Award is the Department of Ecology’s highest award for recognizing environmental excellence in the state of Washington. The Qwuloolt project will restore about 380 acres of unused farmland into a… Continue Reading

Federal Funding Opportunities for Natural Resources, Agriculture, Alternative Energy, Water, and Energy Efficiency

Posted in Development, Energy Efficiency/Sustainability, Environmental, Land Use, Land Use Planning, Municipal, Water Law
Six opportunities totaling over $16.25 million in federal financial assistance were released this week, soliciting proposals in the major program areas of: Agriculture Alternative and Renewable Energy Energy Efficiency Public Lands and Natural Resources Water Van Ness Feldman’s Federal Funding Resource Center is an online information tool designed to inform our clients and friends about key energy-,… Continue Reading

Federal Government Releases Roadmap for Solar Energy Development on Public Lands

Posted in Development, Energy Efficiency/Sustainability, Environmental, Land Use, Land Use Planning
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… Continue Reading

Cascade Water Alliance: First Entity in Washington to Become A Joint Municipal Utilities Services Corporation

Posted in Development, Land Use, Municipal, Water Law
On July 12, 2012, Van Ness Feldman GordonDerr client Cascade Water Alliance  successfully converted to a municipal corporation (a Joint Municipal Utility Services Authority) from a non-profit Watershed Partnership.  Cascade, formed originally as a non-profit watershed management partnership, realized it lacked authorities of other utilities and had many areas of confusion, such as how to handle… Continue Reading

White House Unveils Plan for Accelerating Federal Permitting of Infrastructure

Posted in Development, Land Use, Land Use Planning
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… Continue Reading

Natural Resources Reform Bill Signed Into Law

Posted in Environmental, Growth Management Act, Land Use
In April, I provided a summary of SSB 6406, dubbed the Natural Resources Reform Bill.  This Washington State legislation made changes to natural resource and environmental review and permitting, and was passed by the legislature on April 10, 2012.  On May 2, 2012 Governor Gregoire signed the bill into law, but added a signing statement  clarifying one… Continue Reading

BLM Releases Draft Impact Management Plans and Design Criteria for Solar Projects

Posted in Climate Change, Development, Energy Efficiency/Sustainability, Environmental, Land Use
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages approximately 264 million acres of Federal lands around the country, has issued two draft documents in support of BLM’s recent push to expedite permitting of utility-scale solar power projects in six Southwestern states.  One of the documents is a set of standard design criteria for solar projects,… Continue Reading

DOI Proposes Extended ESA Take Permits to Accommodate Energy Projects

Posted in Climate Change, Environmental, Land Use
The Department of the Interior (DOI) has proposed to extend the duration of Endangered Species Act (ESA) “take” permits allowing for non-purposeful disturbance or harm to golden and bald eagles.  If finalized, the rule would extend the term of such permits to thirty years, on the grounds that long-term authorizations are necessary for the financing… Continue Reading

Federal District Court Denies Request for Preliminary Injunction To Halt The Sale Of Flood Insurance and Floodplain Map Revisions In The Puget Sound

Posted in Development, Environmental, Land Use, Municipal, Real Estate
On April 12, 2012, Judge Martinez, U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington, issued a decision denying the National Wildlife Federation’s request for a preliminary injunction to halt the sale of flood insurance and floodplain map revisions in the Puget Sound stating that the NWF failed to demonstrate likely environmental harm absent the requested injunction.… Continue Reading

Idaho Passes Law that Prevents Local Governments from Blocking Oil and Gas Operations

Posted in Development, Environmental, Land Use, Municipal
Idaho Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter signed House Bill 464, which prevents cities and counties in the state from banning oil and gas drilling operations.  The bill would still allow local governments to pass “reasonable local ordinances” that regulate zoning and planning issues related to oil and gas operations, while all other activities would be… Continue Reading

Van Ness Feldman Launches Federal Funding Resource Center

Posted in Climate Change, Development, Energy Efficiency/Sustainability, Environmental, Land Use, Municipal
We are pleased to announce the launch of our Federal Funding Resource Center – – 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. The Federal Funding… Continue Reading

Obama Issues Executive Order on Federal Permitting and Review of Infrastructure Projects

Posted in Development, Land Use
On March 22, 2012 President Obama issued Executive Order 13604  calling for improvements to federal permitting and review processes for infrastructure projects.  The memorandum recognizes the U.S. must have “fast, reliable, resilient, and environmentally sound means of moving people, goods, energy, and information” to maintain the Nation’s competitive edge.  The Order creates a framework for… Continue Reading

Supreme Court Rules That Private Parties Do Not Have Avenue For Relief in Appeals of Docketing Decisions

Posted in Growth Management Act, Land Use, Municipal
Last week, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled in Stafne v. Snohomish County, reversing a lower appellate court decision that had caused consternation among local jurisdictions throughout the state.  The case clarifies the ability of a party to appeal a local jurisdiction’s decision to reject a privately-initiated proposal to amend a comprehensive plan amendment as… Continue Reading

King County Streamlines Rules for Wetland Developments

Posted in Development, Environmental, Land Use, Municipal
King County’s long developing program to accept cash payments for projects in need of wetland mitigation is expected to be formally approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers next week.  Under this program, King County takes on the obligation to build acceptable wetland mitigation and the Corps relieves the party filling the wetland and… Continue Reading