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Metropolitan King County
Council News

Council Completes Massive Review of Comprehensive Plan


The Council adopted updates to the King County Comprehensive Plan, the blueprint for growth in the County’s unincorporated communities and how the County provides local and regional services.


The Metropolitan King County Council has adopted updates to the King County Comprehensive Plan (KCCP), the blueprint for growth in the County’s unincorporated communities and how the County provides local and regional services. In doing so the Council has renewed the County’s commitment to preserving open space and farmland while maintaining the pledge to protect the environment and provide opportunities for growth.


“When we began the review of the 2016 Comprehensive Plan, we committed to a thoughtful and transparent public review and engagement process. The extensive public process helped deliver a Comprehensive Plan that advances our shared values,” said Council Vice Chair Rod Dembowski. “I am particularly proud of our work to incorporate equity and social justice in all chapters of the plan so all of our neighbors may benefit from the region’s growth, and our work to protect our environment and combat climate change by requiring that King County develop a plan to become a carbon-neutral government. This plan also makes great strides toward addressing affordable housing. For example, it includes a mandatory inclusionary zoning requirement as part of an upzone, for the first time.”


The amendments to the Comprehensive Plan acknowledges the continued mutual benefits of strengthening ties between rural and urban King County as the region faces the challenges of absorbing the impacts of a growing population.


“I am particularly proud of my part in this comp plan update to support development of the Eastside Rail Corridor to bring both transportation and recreation to the eastside of Lake Washington, to maintain our commitment to protect open spaces and agricultural land and to add a policy to work collaboratively with cities to address housing affordability as a regional issue,” said Councilmember Claudia Balducci.


The King County Comprehensive Plan guides growth and development in the unincorporated areas of the county and sets policy on such major issues as annexations, transportation, and the environment. King County’s first Comprehensive Plan was adopted in the early 1990s. Technical changes to the plan can be made once a year, with major plan updates conducted every four years. Major updates of the Comprehensive Plan have occurred in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012.


“This update is result of a year-long process of collaboration by my Council colleagues and I to set policy, as well as guide growth development in our county,” said Council Chair Joe McDermott. “I am particularly pleased that, for the first time, the Comprehensive Plan will include a framework for addressing the ever-growing problem of gun violence in our region”


The 2016 update is a major review of the Comprehensive Plan. It builds on King County’s 25 years of success in implementing the Growth Management Act.  Since adoption of the first Comprehensive Plan in 1994, the vast majority of housing growth countywide – 96 percent – has occurred in urban areas. Building on this success, the 2016 plan now also responds to new critical challenges. The adopted updates to the Comprehensive Plan include:


Focus on Equity and Social Justice: Through the inclusion of strong, specific language about how consideration of Equity and Social Justice will shape County actions. The 2016 Comprehensive plan outlines how the County will move forward with affordable housing and human services goals, how it will work to ensure that undesirable land uses do not overburden historically underserved communities, and how all residents of King County will benefit from careful application of Equity and Social Justice principles when the County sites facilities, operates programs, or launches new initiatives.


Housing and Human Services: The 2016 Comprehensive Plan reflects the importance of serving those most in need by organizing policies related to affordable housing and human services into a new chapter. Language in the adopted Plan strengthens and clarifies these policies to reflect the County’s commitment to help people who are experiencing homelessness, those at risk of displacement, and those in need of mental health and behavioral health services.


Climate Change and Environmental Protection: By incorporating key goals and policies from the County’s 2015 Strategic Climate Action Plan. The update demonstrates the County’s commitment to climate action, with new policies on environmental and climate justice; more specific references to efforts to reduce County greenhouse gas emissions through new technologies, such as all-electric battery buses; commitments to ongoing preservation of valuable open spaces; and development of a Green Building handbook and building codes.


Local Government Responsibilities: At its core, the Comprehensive Plan is a description of King County’s role in the unincorporated areas. The 2016 Comprehensive Plan highlights this role and provides additional clarity about the County’s responsibility as a local service provider to unincorporated residents through enhancements to policies and text throughout all chapters. At the same time, the adopted Comprehensive Plan describes the County’s role as a regional service provider and a leader and convener on regional issues of concern.


Local and Regional Planning:  The adopted 2016 Comprehensive Plan complies with the State Growth Management Act and illustrates the County’s continued commitment to protect rural lands from expansion of the urban growth area. The Comprehensive Plan also launches a new subarea planning program that will create more detailed, stakeholder-informed local plans across the entire unincorporated area.


Natural Resource Lands: By reaffirming the County’s commitment to protecting our valuable forest and agricultural lands in accordance with the State Growth Management Act.  The Comprehensive Plan links the production of local food and the proliferation of farmers markets to continued protection for our Agriculture Production Districts, which have remained in place for more than forty years.  New policies in this update also encourage the use of Best Management Practices and sustainable farming activities to help protect the environment.


Council adoption of the 2016 update completes a review process that began when the Council received the County Executive’s proposed update in March.  Throughout the spring and summer, the Council’s Transportation, Economy and Environment (TREE) Committee discussed the proposed changes to the KCCP. There were multiple opportunities for the public to discuss the proposal and on September 20, the TrEE Committee took up the Chair’s striking amendment, which modified the Executive’s proposal, which the Committee sent to the full Council with a “do pass” recommendation. 


A formal public hearing was held on November 28 and additional amendments were adopted at the full Council on December 5.


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