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PDFWAC 365-196-600

Public participation.

(l) Requirements.
(a) Each county and city planning under the act must establish procedures for early and continuous public participation in the development and amendment of comprehensive plans and development regulations. The procedures are not required to be reestablished for each set of amendments.
(b) The procedures must provide for broad dissemination of proposals and alternatives, opportunity for written comments, public meetings after effective notice, provision for open discussion, communication programs, information services, and consideration of and response to public comments.
(c) Errors in exact compliance with the established procedures do not render the comprehensive plan or development regulations invalid if the spirit of the procedures is observed.
(2) Record of process.
(a) Whenever a provision of the comprehensive plan or development regulation is based on factual data, a clear reference to its source should be made part of the adoption record.
(b) The record should show how the public participation requirement was met.
(c) All public hearings should be recorded.
(3) Recommendations for meeting public participation requirements. These recommendations are a list of suggestions for meeting the public participation requirement.
(a) Designing the public participation program.
(i) Implementation of the act requires a series of interrelated steps, including: Development of the initial comprehensive plan, evaluating amendments as part of the docket cycle, conducting the periodic update and reviewing the urban growth boundaries, amending development regulations, and conducting subarea planning. Each of these has different levels of significance and different procedural requirements.
(ii) Counties and cities are not required to establish individual public participation programs for each individual amendment. Counties and cities may wish to consider establishing a public program for annual amendments, and establishing separate or updated programs for major periodic updates. When developing a public participation plan for a project not covered by the existing public participation plan, a county or city should develop a public participation plan tailored to the type of action under consideration. This public participation plan should be focused on the type of public involvement appropriate for that type of action.
(iii) The public participation plan should identify which procedural requirements apply for the type of action under consideration and how the county or city intends to meet those requirements.
(iv) To avoid duplication of effort, counties and cities should integrate public involvement required by the State Environmental Policy Act, chapter 43.21C RCW, and rules adopted thereunder, into the overall public participation plan.
(v) Where a proposed amendment involves shorelines of the state, a county or city should integrate the public participation requirements of the Shoreline Management Act, chapter 90.58 RCW, into its public participation plan, as appropriate.
(vi) The public participation program should include outreach and early coordination with state and tribal agencies with subject matter expertise. Coordination with state agencies and tribes is recommended as draft policies and regulations are being developed.
(vii) Once established, the public participation plan must be broadly disseminated.
(b) Visioning. When developing a new comprehensive plan or a significant update to an existing comprehensive plan, counties and cities should consider using a visioning process. The public should be involved, because the purpose of a visioning process is to gain public input on the desired features of the community. The comprehensive plan can then be designed to achieve these features.
(c) Planning commission. The public participation program should clearly describe the role of the planning commission, ensuring consistency with requirements of chapter 36.70, 35.63, or 35A.63 RCW.
(4) Each county or city should try to involve a broad cross-section of the community, so groups not previously involved in planning become involved. Counties and cities should implement innovative techniques that support meaningful and inclusive engagement for people of color and low-income people. Counties and cities should consider potential barriers to participation that may arise due to race, color, ethnicity, religion, age, disability, income, or education level.
(5) Counties and cities should take a broad view of public participation. The act contains no requirements or qualifications that an individual must meet in order to participate in the public process. If an individual or organization chooses to participate, it is an interested party for purposes of public participation.
(6) Providing adequate notice.
(a) Counties and cities are encouraged to consider a variety of opportunities to adequately communicate with the public. These methods of notification may include, but are not limited to, traditional forms of mailed notices, published announcements, electronic mail, and internet websites to distribute informational brochures, meeting times, project timelines, and design and map proposals to provide an opportunity for the public to participate.
(b) Counties and cities must provide effective notice. In order to be effective, notice must be designed to accomplish the following:
(i) Notice must be timely, reasonably available and reasonably likely to reach interested persons. Notice of all events where public input is sought should be broadly disseminated at least one week in advance of any public hearing. Newspaper or online articles do not substitute for the requirement that jurisdictions publish the action taken. When appropriate, notices should announce the availability of relevant draft documents and how they may be obtained.
(ii) Broad dissemination means that a county or city has made the documents widely available and provided information on how to access the available documents and how to provide comments. Examples of methods of broad dissemination may include:
(A) Posting electronic copies of draft documents on the county and city official website;
(B) Providing copies to local libraries;
(C) Providing copies as appropriate to other affected counties and cities, state and federal agencies;
(D) Providing notice to local newspapers; and
(E) Maintaining a list of individuals who have expressed an interest and providing them with notice when new materials are available.
(iii) Certain proposals may also require particularized notice to specific individuals if required by statute or adopted local policy.
(iv) The public notice must clearly specify the nature of the proposal under consideration and how the public may participate. Whenever public input is sought on proposals and alternatives, the relevant drafts should be available. The county or city must make available copies of the proposal that will be available prior to the public hearing so participants can comment appropriately. The notice should specify the range of alternatives considered or scope of alternatives available for public comment in accordance with RCW 36.70A.035 (2)(b)(i) and (ii).
(7) Receiving public comment.
(a) Public meetings on draft comprehensive plans. Once a comprehensive plan amendment or other proposal is completed in draft form, or as parts of it are drafted, the county or city may consider holding a series of public meetings or workshops at various locations throughout the jurisdiction to obtain public comments and suggestions.
(b) Public hearings. When the final draft of the comprehensive plan is completed, at least one public hearing should be held prior to the presentation of the final draft to the county or city legislative authority adopting it.
(c) Written comment. At each stage of the process when public input is sought, opportunity should be provided to make written comment.
(d) Attendance for all meetings and hearings to which the public is invited should be free and open. At hearings all persons desiring to speak should be allowed to do so. A county or city may establish a reasonable time limitation on spoken presentations during meetings or public hearings, particularly if written comments are allowed.
(8) Continuous public involvement.
(a) Consideration of and response to public comments. All public comments should be reviewed. Adequate time should be provided between the public hearing and the date of adoption for all or any part of the comprehensive plan to evaluate and respond to public comments. The county or city should provide a written summary of all public comments with a specific response and explanation for any subsequent action taken based on the public comments. This written summary should be included in the record of adoption for the plan.
(b) Ending the opportunity for comment prior to deliberation. After the end of public comment, the local government legislative body may hold additional meetings to deliberate on the information obtained in the public hearing.
(c) Additional meetings may be necessary if the public hearings provided the county or city with new evidence or information they wish to consider. If during deliberation, the county or city legislative body identifies new information for consideration after the record of adoption has been closed, then it must provide further opportunity for public comment so this information can be included in the record.
(9) Considering changes to an amendment after the opportunity for public review has closed.
(a) If the county or city legislative body considers a change to an amendment, and the opportunity for public review and comment has already closed, then the county or city must provide an opportunity for the public to review and comment on the proposed change before the legislative body takes action.
(b) The county or city may limit the opportunity for public comment to only the proposed change to the amendment.
(c) Although counties and cities are required to provide an opportunity for public comment, alternatives to a scheduled public hearing may suffice. Adequate notice must be provided indicating how the public may obtain information and offer comments.
(d) A county or city is not required to provide an additional opportunity for public comment under (a) of this subsection if one of the following exceptions applies (see RCW 36.70A.035 (2)(a)):
(i) An environmental impact statement has been prepared under chapter 43.21C RCW, and the proposal falls within the range of alternatives considered in the environmental impact statement;
(ii) The proposed change is within the range of alternatives available for public comment. When initiating the public participation process, a county or city should consider defining the range of alternatives under consideration;
(iii) The proposed change only corrects typographical errors, corrects cross-references, makes address or name changes, or clarifies language of a proposed ordinance or resolution without changing its effect;
(iv) The proposed change is to a resolution or ordinance making a capital budget decision as provided in RCW 36.70A.120; or
(v) The proposed change is to an ordinance or resolution enacting a moratorium or interim control adopted in compliance with RCW 36.70A.390.
(e) If a county or city adopts an amendment without providing an additional opportunity for public comment as described under (a) of this subsection, the findings of the adopted ordinance or resolution should identify which exception under RCW 36.70A.035 (2)(b) applies.
(10) Any amendment to the comprehensive plan or development regulation must follow the applicable procedural requirements and the county or city public participation plan. A county or city should not enter into an agreement that is a de facto amendment to the comprehensive plan accomplished without complying with the statutory public participation requirements. Examples of a de facto amendment include agreements that:
(a) Obligate the county or city, or authorizes another party, to act in a manner that is inconsistent with the comprehensive plan;
(b) Authorize an action the comprehensive plan prohibits; or
(c) Obligate the county or city to adopt a subsequent amendment to the comprehensive plan.
[Statutory Authority: RCW 36.70A.050 and 36.70A.190. WSR 23-08-037, § 365-196-600, filed 3/29/23, effective 4/29/23; WSR 15-04-039, § 365-196-600, filed 1/27/15, effective 2/27/15; WSR 10-03-085, § 365-196-600, filed 1/19/10, effective 2/19/10.]
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