Comprehensive Plan Updates

Review Requirements
The Washington State Growth Management Act (GMA) requires the county to periodically review and revise its comprehensive plan and development regulations under RCW 36.70A.130(1).

Additionally, the GMA requires review of urban growth areas (UGAs) under RCW 36.70A.130(3). The UGAs must be able to accommodate population and employment growth projected for the 20-year planning period. Therefore, Whatcom County has initiated a multi-year project to update its Comprehensive Plan.

Whatcom County is required to complete its review and update of the comprehensive plan, development regulations (zoning, critical areas ordinance, etc.), and urban growth areas by June 30, 2016.

Reader's Guide to Staff-Recommended Preliminary Draft Comprehensive Plan Amendments


Whatcom County’s Comprehensive Plan contains 11 elements. Staff has prepared initial recommended revisions and amendments to all 11 elements based on the following objectives:

  • Incorporate comments and recommendations from consultation with Council and Executive-appointed advisory committees, the parks and recreation commission, other county departments and outside agencies;  
  • Update elements with new applicable information, data or projections relevant to the next twenty-year planning period;  
  • Remove much of the now-outdated narrative [non-policy] language regarding process and history of previous planning efforts;  
  • Update narrative and policies to address current issues and planning initiatives or to reflect new policy direction;  
  • Convert “action items” at the end of each element into policies (where the items are unfinished or on-going) or delete action items already accomplished;  
  • Amend or delete policies that are out of date or duplicative;  
  • Edit narrative or policies to correct grammar;   
  • Update narrative and policies to achieve internal consistency, and  
  • Provide for amendments to achieve consistency with the GMA (e.g., incorporate changes based on legislative updates or as a result of GMA compliance actions).

The Whatcom County Planning Commission issued recommendations on January 14, 2016.  These recommendations, and the Planning Commission’s findings, are posted below. 

The County Council will review the Comprehensive Plan, including UGA proposals, between January and June 2016.  This review will include staff briefings, review of Planning Commission recommendations, city presentations, public hearings, and consideration of public input.  It is anticipated that the Council will adopt an ordinance relating to the Comprehensive Plan update and UGA review by the June 30, 2016 state deadline.


View the Growth Management Tools Report

 2016 Comprehensive Plan Update      
Staff Recommended Edits
 March 2015

Final Planning Commission

County Council
Preliminary                             Drafts 
 Link to Council proposals

Council changes are highlighted in yellow
  Findings of Fact and
Reason for Action
Chapter 1 - Introduction Chapter 1 Chapter 1   Chapter 1  
Chapter 2 - Land Use Chapter 2 Chapter 2  Chapter  2  
Chapter 3 - Housing Chapter 3 Chapter 3    
Chapter 3-Analysis      
Chapter 4 - Capital Facilities Chapter 4 Chapter 4    
Chapter 5 -Utilities Chapter 5 Chapter 5  Chapter 5  
Chapter 6 - Transportation                                 Chapter 6 Chapter 6   Chapter 6  
Chapter 7 - Economics Chapter 7 Chapter 7    
Chapter 8 - Resource Lands Chapter 8 Chapter 8   Chapter 8  
Chapter 9 - Recreation Chapter 9  Chapter 9   Chapter 9  
Chapter 10 - Design Chapter 10      
Chapter 11- Environment Chapter 11 Chapter 11   Chapter 11  
  Appendix G Appendix G    
Appendix A-Glossary  Appendix A      
Appendix B-Acronyms  Appendix B      
Appendix C-Countywide Planning Policies  Appendix C      
Appendix D-Bibliography  Appendix D      
Appendix E-20 Year Capital Facilities Plan (version to be deleted)         
Appendix E-20 Year Capital Facilities Plan (proposed) Appendix E      
Appendix F-Six Year CIP (version to be deleted)        
Appendix F-Six Year CIP (proposed)  Appendix F      
Appendix H-Airport Overlay Zones  Appendix H      
Appendix I-Imaginary Surfaces  Appendix I      
 Zoning Maps