Short bills simplify land-use laws, relax restrictions on rural stores

Senate passes three measures to adjust land-use laws

Near Oroville in the 7th Legislative District.

OLYMPIA – Three bills from state Sen. Shelly Short simplifying state land-use laws have been approved by the Washington State Senate.

The measures make state rules more flexible, allowing larger stores and restaurants in rural areas, making it easier to build rural fire stations, and reducing obstacles for small cities and counties that wish to adjust urban growth boundaries.

“These bills will improve services in rural areas, and relieve some of the pressure that state land-use rules put on districts like mine,” said Short, R-Addy.

The three bills won unanimous approval from the Washington Senate and have been sent to the House for further consideration.

Senate Bill 6140 increases the allowable square footage of rural stores and restaurants located more than 10 miles from an urban area, at crossroads and other areas where commercial development is permitted.  The bill allows square footage of up to 10,000 square feet when a business supplies an essential rural service – such as grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware or auto repair. Under current law, the businesses are limited to either 2,500 or 5,000 square feet.

Senate Bill 5834 allows counties and cities to adjust urban growth boundaries annually, rather than waiting for 10-year revisions of their comprehensive land-use plans. The rule change applies to the 28 Washington counties that are required to adopt comprehensive plans under the state’s Growth Management Act. Total acreage earmarked for development could not increase, and other restrictions would apply. The measure would allow county and city governments to respond to existing development needs and continue protection of critical areas.

Senate Bill 5869 eliminates minimum lot size requirements when land is subdivided for construction of rural fire stations. The bill would allow fire stations to be built on lots of two acres or less, as long as other conditions are met.