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Essential public facilities.

(1) Determining what facilities are essential public facilities.
(a) The term "essential public facilities" refers to public facilities that are typically difficult to site. Consistent with county-wide planning policies, counties and cities should create their own lists of "essential public facilities," to include at a minimum those set forth in RCW 36.70A.200.
(b) For the purposes of identifying facilities subject to the "essential public facilities" siting process, it is not necessary that the facilities be publicly owned.
(c) Essential public facilities include both new and existing facilities. It may include the expansion of existing essential public facilities or support activities and facilities necessary for an essential public facility.
(d) The following facilities and types of facilities are identified in RCW 36.70A.200 as essential public facilities:
(i) Airports;
(ii) State education facilities;
(iii) State or regional transportation facilities;
(iv) Transportation facilities of statewide significance as defined in RCW 47.06.140. These include:
(A) The interstate highway system;
(B) Interregional state principal arterials including ferry connections that serve statewide travel;
(C) Intercity passenger rail services;
(D) Intercity high-speed ground transportation;
(E) Major passenger intermodal terminals excluding all airport facilities and services;
(F) The freight railroad system;
(G) The Columbia/Snake navigable river system;
(H) Marine port facilities and services that are related solely to marine activities affecting international and interstate trade;
(I) High capacity transportation systems.
(v) Regional transit authority facilities as defined under RCW 81.112.020;
(vi) State and local correctional facilities;
(vii) Solid waste handling facilities;
(viii) In-patient facilities, including substance abuse facilities;
(ix) Mental health facilities;
(x) Group homes;
(xi) Secure community transition facilities;
(xii) Any facility on the state ten-year capital plan maintained by the office of financial management.
(e) Essential public facility criteria apply to the facilities and not the operator. Cities and counties may not require applicants who operate essential public facilities to use an essential public facility siting process for projects that would otherwise be allowed by the development regulations. Applicants who operate essential public facilities may not use an essential public facility siting process to obtain approval for projects that are not essential public facilities.
(f) Regardless of whether it is a new, existing or an expansion or modification of an existing public facility, the major component in the identification of an essential public facility is whether it provides or is necessary to provide a public service and whether it is difficult to site.
(2) Criteria to determine if the facility is difficult to site. Any one or more of the following conditions is sufficient to make a facility difficult to site.
(a) The public facility needs a specific type of site of such as size, location, available public services, which there are few choices.
(b) The public facility needs to be located near another public facility or is an expansion of an essential public facility at an existing location.
(c) The public facility has, or is generally perceived by the public to have, significant adverse impacts that make it difficult to site.
(d) Use of the normal development review process would effectively preclude the siting of an essential public facility.
(e) Development regulations require the proposed facility to use an essential public facility siting process.
(3) Preclusion of essential public facilities.
(a) Cities and counties may not use their comprehensive plan or development regulations to preclude the siting of essential public facilities. Comprehensive plan provisions or development regulations preclude the siting of an essential public facility if their combined effects would make the siting of an essential public facility impossible or impracticable.
(i) Siting of an essential public facility is "impracticable" if it is incapable of being performed or accomplished by the means employed or at command.
(ii) Impracticability may also include restrictive zoning; comprehensive plan policies directing opposition to a regional decision; or the imposition of unreasonable conditions or requirements.
(iii) Limitations on essential public facilities such as capacity limits; internal staffing requirements; resident eligibility restrictions; internal security plan requirements; and provisions to demonstrate need may be considered preclusive in some circumstances.
(b) A local jurisdiction may not include criteria in its land use approval process which would allow the essential public facility to be denied, but may impose reasonable permitting requirements and require mitigation of the essential public facility's adverse effects.
(c) An essential public facility is not precluded simply because the comprehensive plan provisions would be too costly or time consuming to comply with.
(d) If the essential public facility and its location have been evaluated through a state or regional siting process, the county or city may not require the facility to go through the local siting process.
(e) Essential public facilities that are sited through a regional or state agency are distinct from those that are "sited by" a city or county or a private organization or individual. When a city or county is siting its own essential public facility, public or private, it is free to establish a nonpreclusive siting process with reasonable criteria.
(4) Comprehensive plan.
(a) Requirements:
(i) Each comprehensive plan shall include a process for identifying and siting essential public facilities. This process must be consistent with and implement applicable county-wide planning policies.
(ii) No local comprehensive plan may preclude the siting of essential public facilities.
(b) Recommendations for meeting requirements:
(i) Identification of essential public facilities. When identifying essential public facilities, counties and cities should take a broad view of what constitutes a public facility, involving the full range of services to the public provided by the government, substantially funded by the government, contracted for by the government, or provided by private entities subject to public service obligations.
(ii) Agreements among jurisdictions should be sought to mitigate any disproportionate financial burden which may fall on the county or city which becomes the site of a facility of a statewide, regional, or county-wide nature.
(iii) Where essential public facilities may be provided by special districts, the plans under which those districts operate must be consistent with the comprehensive plan of the city or county. Counties and cities should adopt provisions for consultation to ensure that such districts exercise their powers in a way that does not conflict with the relevant comprehensive plan.
(c) The siting process should take into consideration the need for county-wide, regional, or statewide uniformity in connection with the kind of facility under review.
(5) Development regulations governing essential public facilities.
(a) Development regulations governing the siting of essential public facilities must be consistent with and implement the process set forth in the comprehensive plan.
(b) Except where county-wide planning policies have otherwise dictated siting choices, provision should be made for the possibility of siting each of the listed essential public facilities somewhere within each county's or city's planning area.
(c) Counties and cities should consider the criteria established in their comprehensive plan, in consultation with this section to determine if a project is an essential public facility. Counties and cities may also adopt criteria for identifying an essential public facility.
(d) If an essential public facility does not present siting difficulties and can be permitted through the normal development review process, project review should be through the normal development review process otherwise applicable to facilities of its type.
(e) If an essential public facility presents siting difficulties, the application should be reviewed using the essential public facility siting process.
(6) The essential public facility siting process.
(a) The siting process may not be used to deny the approval of the essential public facility. The purpose of the essential public facility siting process is to allow a county or city to impose reasonable conditions on an essential public facility necessary to mitigate the impacts of the project while ensuring that its development regulations do not preclude the siting of an essential public facility.
(b) The review process for siting essential public facilities should include a requirement for notice and an opportunity to comment to other interested counties and cities and the public.
(c) The permit process may include reasonable requirements such as a conditional use permit, but the process used must ensure a decision on the essential public facility is completed without unreasonable delay.
(d) The essential public facility siting process should identify what conditions are necessary to mitigate the impacts associated with the essential public facility. The combination of any existing development regulations and any new conditions may not render impossible or impracticable, the siting, development or operation of the essential public facility.
(e) Counties and cities should consider the extent to which design conditions can be used to make a facility compatible with its surroundings. Counties and cities may also consider provisions for amenities or incentives for neighborhoods in which facilities are sited. Any conditions imposed must be necessary to mitigate an identified impact of the essential public facility.
[Statutory Authority: RCW 36.70A.050, 36.70A.190. WSR 10-22-103, § 365-196-550, filed 11/2/10, effective 12/3/10; WSR 10-03-085, § 365-196-550, filed 1/19/10, effective 2/19/10.]
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