Issues in Action

Government Affairs Update: 9/11/2023

Government Affairs Meeting September 28th at 4pm – Our September meeting of the OMB Government Affairs Committee will be hosted at the OMB office in Olympia, starting at 4pm. Special Guest Brett Bures, Development Services Manager in the Thurston Community Planning and Economic Development department, will be walking us through the state of Thurston’s Habitat Conservation Plan so far. Those who have questions, complaints, or suggestions should plan to attend. Brett is very knowledgeable and looking to make the existing process as predictable as possible for our members.

If interested in this conversation, please reach out to OMB Government Affairs Director Jessie Simmons for the full details, and if unable to attend in person you’ll receive a zoom link.

Thurston County – On Wednesday, August 30th, the Thurston Community Planning and Economic Development department (CPED) provided a “state of the department presentation to the Board of County Commissioners. Department staff presented what has been accomplished, what is in the works, and where the department is in a regional context. For those interested in what was reported, you can find the presentation at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkZq5wpAv-o

State Building Codes Council – The Washington State Building Codes Council will be meeting Friday, the 15th of September, to revisit some pending topics. Such as changes coming in the 2021 building codes that are scheduled to go into effect on October 29th. The Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) is coordinating talking points and a call to action in preparation for this meeting. They are looking to have members volunteer to testify at Friday’s meeting in Spokane. The goal is to further delay implementation due to a continuing confusion around elements such as the Wildland Urban Interface and language within the energy codes that may still conflict with recent state and federal precedent. A virtual option is available and all the details about the meeting can be found at: https://www.sbcc.wa.gov/events/2023-09/council-meeting-09152023

For further information, please contact your OMB Government Affairs Director, Jessie Simmons, at ga@omb.org or (360)754-0912 (ext. 102).

7/31/2023

Olympia/Thurston Joint Plan – The public hearing for proposed updates to the Olympia/Thurston Joint Plan is set for Tuesday, August 1st. at 3:30pm. There is still a limited amount of time to review and add comment. Some highlights include the updates to the goals within the land use and housing sections to better match the guidance passed down from this year’s legislative session. For example, allowing more density and a mixture of housing in the planned Urban Growth Areas, as well as a significant movement away from car-based transportation in some of the higher density areas. If you are interested in commenting , or simply listening, you can attend in person or online. Register to attend online at the following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZMocOytpjorGNT9f235_1i3G5-_a36_ki3Y

City of Lacey – Big things are happening in the City of Lacey.

First, Olympia master Builders would like to congratulate Rick Walk, long-time head of the city’s Community & Economic Development Department, on accepting the role of City Manager. Rick and our Government Affairs team have a great relationship, and we expect that relationship to continue even with the shifting around of many staff.

For more information, please contact our Government Affairs Director, Jessie Simmons, at ga@omb.org or (360)754-0912 ext. 102.

 

Government Affairs Update: 7/17/2023

Elections – Yes, this year is an election year (every year is an election year). Many may see this year as an “off” year election, but the truth is that the elections that happen in these “off” years are the most impact that you can have on your local community. Elections this year include positions such as County Commission, City Council, Port Commission, and School Board. All of which have varying levels of impact on housing and the building industry. So, since you have your ballot (check your mailbox), and you care about the future of your business, don’t forget to vote in these local elections. The Affordable Housing Council of the Olympia Master Builders has endorsed candidates in four races for the primary election cycle and will have more suggestions to come in the general election. For now, the TAHC recommends a vote for the following housing champions:

  • Bill McGregor for Port of Olympia, District 1
  • Rose Chiu Gunderson for Port of Olympia, District 4
  • Lenny Greenstein for Lacey City Council, Position 2
  • Ed Kunkel for Lacey City Council, Position 3
  • Andrea McGhee for Tumwater City Council, Position 7

The TAHC has reviewed all the materials and information available on these five candidates and believe they are the best choices for the future of the building industry in their respective roles and districts.

City of Lacey ADUs – The City of Lacey is ramping up their currently existing Accessory Dwelling Unit Program. They are expanding the existing four approved plans to six and allowing flexibility in design within the approved layout. The city’s building department has reached out to us and expressed a desire to connect their constituents and customers with our members and have asked us to beef up the ADU category on our website. The city will then utilize this feature as part of their mission to increase a variety of housing options within Lacey city limits. So, we ask that any members who offer this service let us know so we can get your information listed in the ADU section of our business directory.

Check out the current ADU page on the City of Lacey Website and let us know if you want to add your company to the list: https://cityoflacey.org/adu/

Online Permitting in Grays Harbor County – The Grays Harbor Public Services Department has announced the implementation of SmartGov, an online permitting system.  Through the SmartGov online portal, the public will be able to review historic permits, review parcel information, submit applications, make payments, track application status, request inspections, and more.

IMPORTANT DATES:

  • July 20th – Planning, Building, septic, and water availability applications not accepted after 12:00 PM.
  • July 21st – 25th – Conversion period.  Staff may not be available to assist the general public.  Applications not accepted.
  • July 26th – New applications accepted online via SmartGov Portal.  Paper applications no longer accepted.

More information is available at: https://www.graysharbor.us/departments/public_services/planning_division/index.php

If you have any questions, please contact a Permit Coordinator at 360-249-4222 or email pbd@graysharbor.us.

Lewis Count Commissioner Search Final – After an extensive nationwide search, the Lewis County Commissioners have selected an individual with local roots as their next County Manager.

The commissioners offered their top position Wednesday to Ryan Barrett, a former Lewis County Sheriff’s Office lieutenant who now oversees more than 100 employees as a captain with the South Correctional Entity in Des Moines, Wash. The commissioners selected Barrett, 41, after hosting a public meet-and-greet followed by an intensive, all-day interview session that involved nearly two dozen county employees, including elected officials, department directors and others.

You can find the official press release here: https://lewiscountywa.gov/news-room/press-releases/commissioners-offer-county-manager-job-to-man-with-local-roots/

For more information, contact our Government Affairs Director, Jessie Simmons, at ga@omb.org or at (360)754-0912 ext. 102.

 

Government Affairs Update: 5/08/2023

Olympia Kicks Off Olympia 2045: A Comprehensive Plan Update

Olympia 2045 is your opportunity to shape the City of Olympia’s long-term vision and goals. Through this process we will update the City’s Comprehensive Plan and address new or updated state requirements. The Olympia 2045 update will also consider population projections and resulting employment and housing needs, as our community is expected to grow by approximately 21,000 within 20 years.

“The City’s Comprehensive Plan sets the long-term direction for annual work plans and all other long range Olympia planning processes,” said Olympia City Manager Jay Burney. “Capturing our communities’ goals is a big part of what our staff will be doing as a part of this update, and I invite you to take part. If you have – or maybe have never – engaged with us before, this is an excellent introduction to learn and influence the many ways your local government works to foster community.”

Informational Webinar: The multi-year public process kicks off with an informational webinar at 6 p.m. on May 10, 2023. The webinar will include a short presentation covering timeline, process and how to get involved. Register in advance here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_n8FyUHlqQca7Z5M7p_lRjg. Once registered, you will receive a confirmation email.

The plan’s series of chapters will address: Community Values & Vision, Public Participation & Partners, Natural Environment, Land Use & Urban Design, Housing, Transportation, Parks, Arts and Recreation, Utilities, Economy, and Public Safety. Each chapter will also include focused considerations on health, climate, and equity issues.

Engagement Opportunity – Now through May 31st.
A community check-in on our vision and values will bookend the process. The City has opened a digital feedback opportunity on engage.olympiawa.gov/values-vision2045 to capture the public’s thoughts on our existing vision and values. The public can visit the online link or contact the City project manager to provide feedback through May 31,2023. Washington’s Growth Management Act requires comprehensive planning for cities of Olympia’s size, as well as updates every ten years. The Olympia2045 update is due in 2025.

OMB Government Affairs Meeting has been moved to May 24th.
Our membership has been presented with the opportunity to provide preliminary input on the potential of cluster development in agricultural zones. In practice, this would allow for more flexibility within agriculturally zoned land. Ashley Arai, Agriculture Community Program Manager at Thurston County, will be joining the discussion and will be including the feedback in the suggested policy language. Her big questions for our members are centered around what this type of development might look like and if it would even be feasible. OMB staff encourages you to participate in the meeting.

Meeting Details:
Date: May 24, 2023
Time: 4pm to 5:30pm
Location: Olympia Master Builders office at 1211 State Ave NE, Olympia, WA 98506

Government Affairs Update: 3/24/2023

Opportunity for Comment in Olympia:

FAIR HOUSING ASSESSMENT:
Olympia has initiated a “fair housing assessment” through which they seek to address housing discrimination and other barriers to obtaining housing, that have impacted Olympia and Thurston residents. Thurston County, the Housing Authority of Thurston County, and City of Olympia began combining efforts last fall to seek input on these issues and help inform local housing priorities for the Joint Consolidated Plan. A draft of the assessment and resources around housing can be found here.

CONSOLIDATED PLAN:
Every five years the city’s and county’s joint plan receives a review and update. The public may currently review and comment on the draft. This assessment ultimately informs the consolidated plan and helps set priorities on how to spend Community Development Block Grant funds.

PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD:
The public comment period is currently open for these items and will close April 14thComments on these efforts may be emailed to cdbg@ci.olympia.wa.us; mailed to City Hall at P.O. Box 1967, Olympia WA 98507-1967; dropped off at City Hall at 601 4th Ave E, Olympia WA; or provided by phone by calling CDBG Program Specialist Anastasia Everett at 360.753.8277.  

PUBLIC HEARINGS SCHEDULED FOR MARCH 28th and APRIL 18th:
City of Olympia will be March 28th. Thurston County is April 18th.

BIAW Day on the Hill:

Tuesday, March 21st, was the Building Industry Association of Washington’s Hill Day. A day that saw many members and staff from around the state show up at the state capitol to urge legislators to pass the significant package of legislation meant to ease the burden on the building industry in Washington State. Members and staff from OMB, as well as others, met with legislators like State Representatives Jessica Bateman (D, 22nd LD) and Andrew Barkis (R, 2nd LD) to speak about topics such as middle housing, transit-oriented development, minimum parking requirements, and permit review to express the importance of why and where our members stand on these issues. The meetings were professional and promising on many of the issues. Our members and staff left feeling both confident and cautiously optimistic about the future of building housing in Washington State. . Keep an eye out for future updates and don’t forget to check-in on BIAW’s Legislative Action Center for requests for action on legislation.

 

 

 

February 27, 2023 

Washington State Legislature – Today marks the beginning of a 10-day stretch of legislative floor debate. Both houses face a deadline of March 8th, by which they must act on most bills in their respective house of origin (excluding budget and related bills). There isn’t much in the way of public participation during this time, but for those interested in watching the process TVW has provided links to all debate times as follows: 

House… 

Senate… 

In addition, TVW has live House and Senate channels that carry floor debate – but these channels are only for online viewing, they cannot be viewed after.  

Your Government Affairs Committee will continue following the legislative process closely and keep membership abreast of the issues and any requests for action. For more information, please contact our Government Affairs Director, Jessie Simmons, at ga@omb.org or (360)754-0912 ext. 102.  

Thurston County – Thurston County staff was kind enough to bring their presentation on the new Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy & Resiliency (C-PACER) Program to our Government Affairs Committee in February. Climate Mitigation Senior Program Manager, Rebecca Harvey, provided a thorough presentation on the role of the county in the process and brought along a financial professional to better explain how commercial property developers (including multifamily projects) can access revenue to make efficiency improvements that better align with the move toward “green buildings.  

More information on C-PACER can be found at the following sites: 

 

February 13, 2023

Washington State Legislature – The legislature is well into session, having just finished week 5. Several items were passed out of committee, amended, and even had executive action taken as part of the next steps in the legislative process. However, the most significant action over the last week has to be that the bipartisan HB 1110 was amended, and the House Executive Committee on Housing does recommend a “do pass” with 9 vote in favor and only 3 against the recommendation, proving that there is bipartisan momentum to address our shortage of housing in Washington State. You can find a report on the substitute bill here.

Briefly, the summary outlines three items, it:

  • Requires certain cities planning under the Growth Management Act to authorize minimum development densities in residential zones.
  •  Establishes requirements for middle housing development regulations.
  • Requires the Department of Commerce to provide technical assistance to cities in implementing the requirements and to develop model middle housing ordinances.

As the bill progresses and eventually becomes law, we at Olympia Master Builders expect that the most important way to engage will be at the local jurisdictions during policy implementation processes and discussion. For now, the outlook remains optimistic when it comes to one of the most important steps toward increasing the housing supply in our state.

As the process unfolds, remember to check in on the BIAW weekly call to action and sign in per their recommendation on upcoming bills. The list for this week is as follows:

Monday, February 13

1:30 PM Senate Early Learning 

SB 5668 - Concerning small districts with less than 2,750 students and significant participation in skill centers.

Sign in PRO  

4:00 PM Senate Transportation 

SB 5466 - Promoting transit-oriented development.

Sign in PRO 

SB 5452 - Authorizing impact fee revenue to fund improvements to bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

Sign in CON 

4:00 PM House Appropriations 

SHB 1433 - Concerning energy labeling of residential buildings.

Sign in CON 

Tuesday, February 14

8:00 AM Senate Local Government 

SB 5618 - Increasing the local property tax revenue growth limit.

Sign in CON 

10:30 AM House Labor 

HB 1320 - Concerning access to personnel records.

Sign in CON 

Friday, February 17

10:30 AM House Labor & Workplace Standards  

HB 1785 - Establishing COVID-19 as an occupational disease.

Sign in CON 


February 6, 2023
 

Washington State Legislature – Last week was week 4 in the Washington State Legislature. The rejuvenated effort to address the housing crisis was on full display. At Olympia Master Builders, we are cautiously optimistic about these efforts. There are many bills that have the potential to do what we ultimately want, and that is to reduce more barriers and build more homes. It is not only what builders across Washington are telling legislators that they want, but what the Governor, many legislators, and housing experts everywhere have vocally stated that we need. That is why, in week 4, we continued to see builders actively engaging on the issue. We even had one of our very own members (Rob Cook of CPR, INC.) testify on a bill that would negatively impact his business capabilities when it came to the application of fire resistant materials. With so many bill proposals put forward to address the issue, and so many builders involved in the conversation, it is hard not to have some optimism that we may see some significant change. However, it is important to remain cautious and engaged to motivate legislators to bring real change to the floor and a vote. 

Olympia Master Builders recommends to follow closely on BIAW’s Legislative Action Center and give input where you are able. 

Here is a list of bills that OMB and BIAW support, and that will improve affordability in housing for people across the state: 

  • HB 1026 – Replacing unelected design review boards with administrative design reviews by local government employees to break down unnecessary barriers during the design phase of a housing project. 
  • HB 1110/SB 5190 – Increasing middle housing in areas traditionally dedicated to single-family detached housing. 
  • HB 1245 /SB 5364  – Increasing housing options through lot splitting. 
  • HB 1252 /HB 1468 – Impact fee deferrals. 
  • HB 1296 / SB 5290 – Concerning consolidating local permit review processes. 
  • HB 1449 – Amending reporting requirements for the project permit application processing timeline. 
  • HB 1519 – Concerning local project review. 
  • SB 5058  — Exempting buildings with 12 or fewer units that are no more than two stories from the definition of a multi-unit residential building. 
  • SB 5258  –  Increasing the supply and affordability of condominium units and townhouses as an option for homeownership. 
  • SB 5412  – Reducing local governments’ land use permitting workloads. 
  • SB 5473 – Permit reporting and permit timeline. 
  • SB 5609  –  Establishing housing approval requirements that will eliminate Washington’s housing shortage. 
  • SB 5466 /HB 1517 – Promoting transit-oriented development. 

Thurston County – A quick reminder that Thurston County is accepting public comment through February 14th on official docket items to amend or make changes to parts of the comprehensive plan.  

Copies of the 2022-2023 Official Dockets with new mid-cycle proposals, including summaries of each proposal, are available on the Community Planning website under “Amendments and Updates” by selecting either “Comp Plan Docket” or “Development Code Docket”, at www.thurstonplanning.org. You can also visit the Building Development Center at the address below for copies of the proposals. 

Comments must be received by February 14, 2023. Send written comments to Dana Bowers, Associate Planner, by e-mail at Dana.Bowers@co.thurston.wa.us 

You can also hand deliver or mail comments to:
Thurston County Community Planning & Economic Development Department
C/O Dana Bowers, Associate Planner
3000 Pacific Ave SE
Olympia WA, 98501

The Comprehensive Plan Amendment Docket is available online.
The Development Code Amendment Docket is available online. 

City of Olympia – On Thursday of last week our Government Affairs Director attended the public presentation on the Capitol Mall Triangle Plan proposal. There, three alternatives were proposed, and the public was given the opportunity to give feedback on elements of each of them. David Ginther, senior planner, and the lead staff for the project said the city-adapted Comprehensive Plan for this project reflects the community’s goals: 

  • to continue to be economically viable, 
  • contribute to the community’s goals with redevelopment, and connections to adjacent areas for all modes travel, 
  • evolve into a complete urban neighborhood with a mix of jobs, housing, and services, 

Ginther added that the city envisions transitioning the subarea to a high-density mixed-use neighborhood and maintaining it as a regional shopping destination. 

The alternatives include: 

  • No action. No changes to existing plans and regulations over the next 20 years. 
  • West Olympia Hubs (Moderate approach). Removes barriers and provides flexibility for developing three hubs, focusing on connecting the Triangle to existing neighborhoods. 
  • Urban Sustainability (Bold approach). Expand density, transit, and mobility options. Integrate climate actions and focus on a new interior center. 

Our Government Affairs Director is working to get comments in by mid-day Wednesday of this week.  

For more information, please reach out to our Government Affairs Director, Jessie Simmons, at ga@omb.org or (360)754-0912 ext. 102.  

 ______________________________________________________________

February 3, 2023
Request for Public Comment:

The Thurston County Board of Commissioners is seeking public comment on new proposals for possible addition to the 2022-2023 Official Dockets of Comprehensive Plan and Development Code Amendments. The public are invited to submit written comments on whether these proposals should be added to the dockets. The dockets establish priorities for county planning work related to comprehensive planning and development code amendments.

Copies of the 2022-2023 Official Dockets with new mid-cycle proposals, including summaries of each proposal, are available on the Community Planning website under “Amendments and Updates” by selecting either “Comp Plan Docket” or “Development Code Docket”, at www.thurstonplanning.org. You can also visit the Building Development Center at the address below for copies of the proposals.

Comments must be received by February 14, 2023. Send written comments to Dana Bowers, Associate Planner, by e-mail at Dana.Bowers@co.thurston.wa.us. You can also hand deliver or mail comments to:
Thurston County Community Planning & Economic Development Department
C/O Dana Bowers, Associate Planner
3000 Pacific Ave SEOlympia WA, 98501

The Comprehensive Plan Amendment Docket is available online.

The Development Code Amendment Docket is available online.

 

Government Affairs Update: January 30, 2023

Washington State Legislature – Week 3 of the 2023 legislative session was packed full of items that could impact your business. Your statewide organization, BIAW, is working diligently to ensure the best path forward for builders across the state. And the OMB Government Affairs Committee is following their lead. This week brings several calls to action:

Permit Reform was first on the docket. Companion bills SB 5290 and HB 1296 were heard bright and early at 8am Tuesday morning in their respective committees. Current local permitting processes have an average timeline of 6.5 months and can add as much as $32k to the price of a new home. The current companion bills accomplish much toward streamlining the process and bringing these costs down.

According to BIAW, these bills (SB 5290/HB 1296):

  • Exempt interior remodels from site plan reviews if the project doesn’t alter the original footprint of the structure, saving time and money for the homeowner and the builder.
  • Establish a consolidated permit review grant program for local governments to issue final decisions on residential permit applications within specific timeframes.
  • Create a grant program to support local governments in transitioning from paper permit filing systems to software systems capable of handling digital permit applications.
  • Require the Dept. of Commerce to study creating a statewide license and permitting software system to streamline local systems.

Rules on Ergonomics have also been resurrected from previous years. Voters soundly rejected such rules 20 years ago, and a massive fight was had out in the House last year. Despite the failure to get any traction on this issue, the legislature will just not let it go away. The Senate Labor Committee had a hearing on SB 5217 scheduled for 10:30am Tuesday.

BIAW contract lobbyist Tom Kwieciak testified against this bill, because:

  • Ergonomic regulations cost employers billions, lead to more automation and worker displacement, and exacerbate the workforce shortage by limiting how many hours employees can legally work.
  • Workers are already protected. In 2006, the state Supreme Court ruled that L&I can still require employers to address workplace musculoskeletal disorders.
  • Washington voters repealed these rules in 2003 through Initiative 841.
  • Businesses around the state are still trying to recover from the response to the pandemic. Ergonomics rules is the nail in the coffin for many.
  • Technical assistance, education and pilot projects are the best solutions to prevent workplace injuries.

These are only a couple of items that the building industry is watching closely this session, and we urge members to stay aware of potential legislative action throughout the process. There are several public hearings left in week 4 of the legislative session, but next steps will see much of the potential legislation move to a floor vote. You can continue to follow the session schedule at: https://leg.wa.gov/

Local Action – The Olympia Master Builders had our first combined Government Affairs and Quarterly Building Officials lunch meeting of 2023 on Wednesday, the 25th of January. Representatives from nearly every one of our jurisdictions showed up and gave reports on various items like permitting timeline improvements and the potential for streamlining processes at the local level. Many jurisdictions are looking to move to a model that allows for both virtual and in person options around inspections and hearings. Details around costs and timeliness notwithstanding, OMB feels that incremental progress is being made. Such progress was on display during the Government Affairs portion of the meeting, as attendees were privy to a presentation and further discussion around the planned update and changes to Thurston County’s tree conversion policy. The county reached out early in this project to ensure that builders were the first voice at the table and made some of the first contributions to the ideas being considered. We at OMB continue to tout that the value of these quarterly meetings for all our membership cannot be overstated, and we look forward to further connecting on jurisdictional progress between members and the building officials in future meetings. The next combined meeting is scheduled for April 26th, and we hope that all members will consider taking part.

For more information, please contact our Government Affairs Director, Jessie Simmons, at ga@omb.org or (360)754-0912 ext. 102.

 

January 24, 2023 

Washington State Housing Bills To Watch
*the bills listed have had public hearings before their respective committees, but comments can still be sent directly to the sponsor of each bill via their direct email.
Washington State Legislature – The 2023 legislative session is in full swing and affordable housing is on the docket in many ways. Committee Hearings took place the week of January 16th through January 20th, and builder representation at those hearings has been outstanding. Some of the bills we are keeping a close eye on are:
SB 5159 – Concerning shoreline master program review schedules.
SIGN IN PRO – promotes jurisdictional consistency and consistency eases the burden on our members to navigated already complicated obstacles and processes.
SB 5203 – Improving the state’s response to climate change by updating the state’s planning framework.
SIGN IN CON – Sec. 3 (Wildland Urban Interface) uses DNR map that specifically states that the map should not be used to determine wildfire risk as it unnecessarily limits development in some areas already designated for urban development (UGAs).
HB 1110 – Increasing middle housing in areas traditionally dedicated to single-family detached housing.
SIGN IN PRO – bipartisan legislation that removes zoning restrictions on various types of housing in every jurisdiction, of note is the removal of many parking mandates on multifamily projects as well. (SB 5190 is the Senate companion bill to this bill and is set for a public hearing in the Senate committee on housing at 1:30pm Wednesday, January 25th).
SB 5117 – Reforming the state building code council, its operations and procedures, and its statutory authority.
SIGN IN PRO – Provides for more thorough legislative oversight of the State Building Codes Council and promotes a better diversity of ideas from all community stakeholders and industry experts.
These are only a few of items we are watching that address the more prevalent issues impacting our industry. We will continue to keep our membership updated on legislative happenings throughout the current session.
For more information, please contact our Government Affairs Director, Jessie Simmons, at ga@omb.org or (360)754-0912 ext. 102.
January 12, 2023
Washington State Legislature – Housing appears to be a top priority for the legislature this year. Your Government Affairs Committee is following the progress of House Bill 1110. A bill, with bipartisan sponsorship, dedicated to ending exclusionary zoning and legalizing middle housing in jurisdictions across the state. The bill is set for a public hearing on January 17th, at 4pm. We will be following the lead of BIAW around public testimony, as it is a statewide issue. (For a thorough breakdown of the impacts of the bill read the article from Sightline Institute, Washington’s 2023 Middle Housing Bill Explained.)
Thurston County – Applications are now open for the Conservation Futures Program through February 28th. The Board of County Commissioners is accepting applications from property owners who would like to sell some or all of their unused property for conservation purposes. Thurston County has previously preserved over 5,000 acres of land for a variety of purposes through this program. Most recently, West Bay Woods Conservation Area and 228 acres of easement in Hudson Cove have been preserved. Interested landowners must receive endorsement from a qualifying organization such as a metropolitan park district, municipal corporation, or nonprofit in the conservation field to sell their property to the program.
More information on the Conservation Futures Program can be found at https://www.thurstoncountywa.gov/planning/Pages/incentives-conservation-futures.aspx
Olympia – The Olympia City Council will soon hear recommendations from staff and the Planning Commission on revisions to the reasonable use exception within the city’s Critical Areas Code. Following the lead of Thurston County, the City of Olympia is looking to streamline the process of completing small projects that would otherwise take months to complete. Creating a process that allows for administrative approval of small projects in critical areas will bring the City of Olympia in line with Thurston County and with much of the rest of the jurisdictions across the state. Olympia Planning Commission received public comment and discussed the details of this issue at their January 9th meeting and will soon send their recommendations to the council for final approval.
The Affordable Housing Council – 2023 is looking to be a big year for local politics. In Washington State, most statewide elections occur in even-numbered years, which means the elections with the most impact on our membership will happen in this odd-numbered year. Thereby, we need your voice on our Political Action Committee. There are multiple contested seats on city councils and local commissions up this year and several open positions that will have new representation. The Affordable Housing Council is your committee to influence and shape the future of building affordable homes in all our jurisdictions. OMB staff highly encourages our members to use their voices and become Affordable Housing Council trustees.
For more information, contact our Government Affairs Director, Jessie Simmons, at ga@omb.org or (360)754-0912.

 

Updated on December 06, 2022

Thurston County Elections/Redistricting
We may have just wrapped up elections for 2022, but 2023 is just beyond the horizon and there are some important things happening within our community. Now that the propositions to expand both the Thurston County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) and the Port of Olympia Commission to five commissioners have passed via a vote of the people, the process must receive public input and be finalized before 2023. On Wednesday, December 7th, the Thurston BoCC will host the public hearing part of this process and receive input on the proposed districts. The current map develops a new District 4 that will encompass much of the Southwestern portion of Thurston County and include many rural communities like Tenino, Rainier, Grand Mound, and part of South Tumwater. The new 4th district will center around the tri-lakes area of Long Lake, Hicks Lake, and Pattison Lake, and extend North to Johnson Point (taking part of the old district 2). These districts are based on an even distribution of population, but there are many questions remaining. If you have input, the public hearing is set for 3:30pm, on December 7th, at the Thurston County Courthouse. You can also attend via Zoom by registering at https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0ldu2qrz8iGNcIrDbI5jNyAvq5R93tQVh1.

Trees in Tumwater –
Many cities across our state have determined that one of the most important steps in the effort to minimize human impacts on the climate and surrounding ecosystems is to protect trees. While they are not wrong on the importance of tree preservation when it comes to canopy within urban areas, aesthetics and the impact on land value, and the ability to sequester carbon, the burden comes with how to balance this need with the need for housing. This discussion has now begun in the City of Tumwater and many ideas were presented in the first meeting that would impact the course of future building within the community. Our team and membership have been invited to the discussion and already expressed concern for the historical trend of punitive measures toward the building and development industry. Our voice has already made an impact and the next advisory committee meeting is set for this Thursday and will center on ideas for incentives and motivation for our members who continue to do the good work of providing housing solutions and balancing that with design that incorporates the needs of the surrounding ecosystems. This discussion is far from over, and will spread to other communities, but our team is confident that we have a voice at the table and our concerns and ideas will be taken seriously.

The Future of EVs in Olympia –
The City of Olympia has been motivated by changes in the State Building Code to implement their own version of the mandate for EV readiness. Olympia has convened an advisory committee to take stakeholder input on their proposals thus far. The good news is that the city seems to want to stay in line with what was already put out by the State Building Codes Council for residential and require what they call “EV Capable” for new builds. In other words, a minimum of including the circuits for the capability of the homeowner adding a charger later. On the commercial/industrial side, however, there are some ideas that go beyond what state code will require and include a much higher required number of parking spaces to be “EV Capable” or even have the charging stations fully installed. Such a requirement would add significant cost to any commercial/industrial build and the committee is currently discussing the efficacy of such a mandate. As with other issues in action, our team is involved in the discussions around this proposal and will update membership as more progress is made on this topic.

For more information, please contact our Government Affairs Director, Jessie Simmons, at ga@omb.org or call (360)754-0912 ext. 102.