The City Council considered the proposed amendment to the Spokane Municipal Code as it regards wetlands protection at their hearing on June 19, 2017. Public testimony was taken and, after Council discussion, the proposed amendments were approved.
In 1990 the Washington State Legislature passed the Growth Management Act (GMA), RCW 36.70A. The GMA was enacted in response to rapid population growth and concerns with the impacts of unplanned development on communities, natural resource lands, open space, and critical areas.
All counties and cities fully planning under the GMA are required to review, evaluate, and, if necessary, revise their Comprehensive Plans and development regulations every eight years. This includes updating their critical areas ordinances.
In 1995 the GMA was amended to require jurisdictions to include the best available science in developing policies and development regulations to protect the functions and values of critical areas. The Washington State Department of Ecology has published guidance to assist jurisdictions in incorporating best available science into their critical areas regulations.
In 2014 the Department of Ecology updated their guidance documents related to wetlands, including changes to the Washington State Wetland Rating System and updated buffer tables. Jurisdictions fully planning under the GMA were required to incorporate these changes into their development regulations during their next mandated periodic update to their Comprehensive Plan.
Because these changes are considered part of the Comprehensive Plan update, they are following a parallel process and are scheduled to be reviewed and considered by the Plan Commission and City Council at the same time as the Plan. Although these changes will be considered at the same time they have undergone a separate SEPA analysis, will have a separate notice and hearing, and will be adopted by Council under a separate ordinance.