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  • Remove much of the now-outdated narrative [non-policy] language regarding process and history of previous planning efforts;  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  • Amend or delete policies that are out of date or duplicative;  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 Final Recommendation 
March 2015

Planning Commission Final
January 2016

August 2016      
    Findings of Fact and
Reason for Action
Chapter 1
 Chapter 1 Chapter 1 Chapter 1 Chapter 1  
Chapter 2
Land Use
 Chapter 2 Chapter 2 Chapter 2 Chapter  2  
Chapter 3
 Chapter 3 Chapter 3 Chapter 3    
Chapter 4
Capital Facilities
 Chapter 4 Chapter 4 Chapter 4    
Chapter 5
 Chapter 5 Chapter 5 Chapter 5 Chapter 5  
Chapter 6 Transportation                                  Chapter 6 Chapter 6 Chapter 6 Chapter 6  
Chapter 7
 Chapter 7 Chapter 7 Chapter 7    
Chapter 8
Resource Lands
 Chapter 8 Chapter 8 Chapter 8 Chapter 8  
Chapter 9
 Chapter 9 Chapter 9 Chapter 9 Chapter 9  
Chapter 10
 Chapter 10 Chapter 10 Chapter 10    
Chapter 11
 Chapter 11 Chapter 11 Chapter 11 Chapter 11  
Appendix A
  Appendix A Appendix A    
Appendix B
  Appendix B Appendix B    
Appendix C
Countywide Planning Policies
  Appendix C Appendix C    
Appendix D
  Appendix D Appendix D    
Appendix E
20 Year Capital Facilities Plan (proposed)
  Appendix E Appendix E    
Appendix E
20 Year Capital Facilities Plan (version to be deleted) 
  Appendix E Appendix E    
Appendix F
Six Year CIP
  Appendix F Appendix F    
Appendix F
Six Year CIP
(version to be deleted)
  Appendix F Appendix F    
Appendix G
Water Resources and
Salmon Recovery Programs
   Appendix G (incorporated
back into
Chapter 11)
Appendix G
Transportation Impact Fees (version to be deleted)
  Appendix G Appendix G    
Appendix H
Airport Overlay Zones
   Appendix H Appendix H    
Appendix I
Imaginary Surfaces
  Appendix I Appendix I    
 Repealed Maps        Maps  
 Repealed UGA Maps        Maps