Comprehensive Plans must be compelling, realistic, and specific. They should embody discipline and imagination. Importantly, they must resolve the tension between property owners seeking a permit and property owners wanting to have a say in what happens in their neighborhood. These were the sentiments that Dave Anderson, Managing Director of the Washington State Department of Commerce Growth Management, expressed at Clark County’s Growth Management Act and Comprehensive Plan Update meeting on January 19, 2023, speaking to the Clark County Council.
This meeting marked the beginning of the 2025–2045 Clark County Comprehensive Plan Update process, an over two-year endeavor (the update is due June 30, 2025) that is required by the Washington State Growth Management Act. It will be the fifth Comprehensive Plan update since the Plan’s inception in 1994.
Comprehensive Plans are long-range policy guides that govern land use, housing, natural resources, environmental, transportation, capital facilities, parks and recreation, historical, economic, schools, community design, annexation, shorelines, and procedural decisions. Although plans are often described as advisory, they have more bite than you would think. When zoning codes mandate that a project be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan, it must be followed (Woods v. Kittitas Cnty., 162 Wn. 2d 597, 614, 174 P.3d 25, 34 (2007)).
There are a couple of legislative changes that will influence this update. As a result of HB 1220 from the 2021 Legislative session, Clark County will now need to plan and accommodate for affordable housing for all economic segments of the population based on different bands of income calculated by the area median income. Additionally, HB 1241 changed the update timing from eight years to ten years, meaning the next update after 2025 will be 2035.
Once the Comprehensive Plan has been adopted and is not appealed in the 60-day window, it is presumed valid and cannot be revisited until it is updated (RCW 36.70A.320(1)). Therefore, it is paramount for interested parties to get involved early and often. Along that vein, the draft Public Participation Plan (PPP) is available now for public review and comment. The PPP provides members of the public opportunities for early and continuing participation and access to key decision-making processes. Interested parties will have until 5 p.m. on Wednesday, February 8th to submit a comment.
Once planning has begun, here are five ways, as of the current PPP, interested stakeholders can participate in the update process:
- Public meetings and open houses. The Community Planning Department will hold public meetings, in-person, online, and/or hybrid, and open houses to provide information and receive comments and feedback from the public. Presentations will be given by technical staff in public meetings and information will be displayed through exhibits in open houses.
- Community group presentations. The Community Planning Department will give presentations to community partners and interested parties. Community groups are encouraged to contact staff and request a presentation.
- Surveys. Community Planning may use surveys to receive feedback from the public. Stay informed throughout the update process by following the project webpage, social media, news releases, email notifications, and legal notices.
- Public comments. Written comments can be submitted to Community Planning throughout the process. There will also be specific comment periods for certain elements of the update, such as the environmental analysis. Note that all comments are public and will be posted to the project webpage and provided to the decision-makers. There is also opportunity for oral testimony during public hearings.
- Planning Commission meetings. The Planning Commission, a seven-member advisory committee to County Council on land use issues, hosts meetings twice a month. Community Planning staff will hold a series of work sessions with the Planning Commission throughout the update process. The meetings are in a hybrid format and the public is welcome to attend and provide public testimony.
Other ways to stay informed during the process are County Council meetings, mapping/GIS presentations, informational videos from Community Planning, and issue papers and informational documents posted to the update website.
Oliver Orjiako, Director of Clark County Community Planning, told meeting attendees that there were hundreds of participants from the public during the last update process and encouraged robust public participation for this round. Now is the time to start thinking about any of your comments, questions, or concerns about Clark County’s Comprehensive Plan; Community Planning welcomes your participation.
This article is provided for informational purposes only—it does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship between the firm and the reader. Readers should consult legal counsel before taking action relating to the subject matter of this article.