The Washington State legislature amended the Growth Management Act (GMA) in 1997 to include a “review and evaluation program,” also known as the buildable lands program (RCW 36.70A.215). At that time, the review and evaluation program applied to six counties: Clark, King, Kitsap, Pierce, Snohomish, and Thurston. The State legislature amended the GMA in 2017 to add Whatcom County to the list of counties required to undertake a review and evaluation program (ESSSB 5254). The State Department of Commerce issued "Buildable Lands Guidelines" in 2018.
The review and evaluation program has two main purposes, which are summarized below:
Components of the Review and Evaluation Program include updating county-wide planning policies, annual collection of data, developing a buildable lands program methodology, reviewing achieved densities, evaluating land suitable for development, and issuing the Buildable Lands Report. The information contained in the Buildable Lands Report will inform the next update of the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan, which is due by June 30, 2025.
Planning Commission Recommendation
On Thursday October 13, 2022, the Whatcom County Planning Commission held a public hearing and issued a recommendation that the County Council adopt of the Buildable Lands Report.
County Council Hearing
The Whatcom County Council will hold a public hearing, consider adopting, and may amend the following at its 6 p.m. meeting on March 21, 2023, or at a later date: ORDINANCE ADOPTING THE BUILDABLE LANDS REPORT (AB2022-641): This ordinance adopts the Buildable Lands Report 2022 Whatcom County Review and Evaluation Program (issued July 7, 2022, revised February 27, 2023), concluding that the review and evaluation required by the Growth Management Act (RCW 36.70A.215) has occurred, concluding that “reasonable measures” are required for the Birch Bay, Cherry Point, and Columbia Valley urban growth areas, and concluding that “reasonable measures” are not required for any other lands in unincorporated Whatcom County. The Buildable Lands Report indicates that reasonable measures are also needed in the City of Bellingham and the City of Blaine. This ordinance was introduced on March 7, 2023.
Public documents are available for review weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Council Office, 311 Grand Avenue, Suite 105, Bellingham, and at www.whatcomcounty.us/council. View meeting schedules, agendas, minutes, videos, documents and archives at whatcom.legistar.com. The Council is currently holding hybrid meetings, which can be attended either in person or remotely. Full Council meetings begin at 6 p.m. (unless otherwise announced) in the Council Chambers at 311 Grand Avenue. Instructions for remote participation can be found at whatcomcounty.us/joinvirtualcouncil or by contacting the Council Office at 360-778-5010. The Council Chambers is handicapped accessible. People with special needs who will be attending Council meetings are asked to contact the Council Office (360-778-5010) at least 96 hours in advance.
Documents developed for the Review and Evaluation Program may be accessed by clicking the links below:
* Stakeholder Interview Summary (May 2019)
* Background Information and Key Issues Report (June 2019)
* Public Participation Plan (April 2020)
* Land Owners Survey (September 2020)
* Adopted Countywide Planning Policies (February 2021)
* Review and Evaluation Program Methodology (February 2022)
* Buildable Lands Report (July 2022, revised February 2023)
Whatcom County and the cities worked together on the Review and Evaluation Program. If you have questions about the Program, please contact the appropriate planner for your jurisdiction, as shown below:
Chris Behee, Long Range Planning Manager, [email protected] or 360-778-8346
Stacie Pratschner, Community Development Services Director, [email protected] or 360-332-8311
Rollin Harper, Everson City Planner, [email protected] or 360-733-6033
Michael Cerbone, Community Development Director, [email protected] or 360-685-2367
Heidi Gudde, Planning & Community Development Director, [email protected] or 360-354-5532
Rollin Harper, Nooksack City Planner, [email protected] or 360-733-6033
Rollin Harper, Sumas City Planner, [email protected] or 360-733-6033
Whatcom County (for properties outside city limits)
Matt Aamot, Senior Planner, [email protected] or 360-778-5939