Snohomish County, Washington, Sets its Sights on Sprawl

Advocates say it’s unnecessary, but Snohomish County is preparing to expand its urban growth areas to allow for more low density residential development.

June 27, 2022, 12:00 PM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Washington State

Kyle_Graff / Shutterstock

Snohomish County is considering a comprehensive plan update that could expand its urban growth areas (UGAs), according to an article by Stephen Fesler published by the Urbanist.

“In total, 1,283 acres could be added to the county’s UGAs,” reports Fesler. “Some of the proposals would designate expanded UGA lands for medium density residential zoning and modest urban commercial zoning. However, there are proposals that would also designate expanded UGA lands for low density residential zoning, too.”

Fesler makes the argument that Snohomish County could avoid expanding the county’s UGAs by rezoning existing low-density UGAs for medium density. “In fact, the county could establish policies for low, medium, and high density residential lands to accommodate much higher densities than they do today. By and large, existing urban zoning in unincorporated areas is very low density and has the potential for much higher levels of infill housing and redevelopment if policymakers would further reform zoning,” writes Fesler.

More detail on the comprehensive plan updates under consideration can be found in the source article, below, along with context provided by a recent zoning change in the county to liberalize its accessory dwelling unit rules as well as countywide growth targets adopted in Fall 2021.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022 in The Urbanist

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