As the legislature continues its focus on housing and implementing strategies to increase access and affordability, local permitting processes are part of the discussion. While several bills proposing to change permitting requirements and create efficiency were introduced during this session, now, only two remain – 2SSB 5290 and 2SSB 5412.

2SSB 5290 includes several proposals from similar bills in previous sessions. It would make changes to state law requiring that local governments exclude permits for interior alterations from site plan review if the interior remodeling meets certain criteria. It also makes several changes to permitting processing requirements, including changes to the 120-day time period for review by adopting three different review periods depending on permit type, instructions on how to count the days within the time periods, and changes to the reporting requirements for “buildable lands” counties.

For the first time, potential penalties are added to state law for those local governments that don’t meet the permitting timelines and for those that don’t complete their reporting.

This bill also includes incentives like grant programs for local governments to digitize their permitting systems and to adopt a sustainable, cost-recovery-based fee system. Of course, it is unknown whether the grant programs will be funded.

2SSB 5412 focuses more on design review and the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). It would create a new requirement that any design review regulations for the exterior design of new development (except historical structures) only include clear and objective requirements. It also requires that any review process be conducted concurrently with other permit review requirements and include no more than one public meeting.

The bill also creates a new SEPA categorical exemption for all projects proposing to develop middle housing within unincorporated urban growth areas if they don’t have existing or anticipate negative impacts on transportation. The project must also be consistent with all development regulations implementing the jurisdiction’s comprehensive plan under the Growth Management Act (GMA). The corresponding comprehensive plan must also have been subjected to a SEPA analysis.

Both bills have passed the Senate. They will be heard in the House Committee on Local Government on March 21st.

Policy Contact:
Paul Jewell
WSAC, Policy Director