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Information for Shoreline

Point Wells - Appeal to Growth Management Hearings Board

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Growth Management Hearings Board rules against Snohomish County Urban Center Plan
Updated 4/29/11 

On April 25, 2011, the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board issued a Final Decision and Order (the FDO) in two cases involving legal challenges to Snohomish County's designations of Point Wells as an "Urban Center." A copy of the FDO is posted on the right hand side of this page. The Growth Board is a state agency consisting of three land use experts appointed by the Governor who hear and decide upon allegations that a city or county has not complied with the goals and requirements of the Growth Management Act (GMA) and the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).

The two cases that the Board ruled on were the 2009 Snohomish County decision to amend its Comprehensive Plan to designate Point Wells as an Urban Center, and the 2010 decision by the County to adopt a Point Wells Urban Center (PWUC) Code, which included zoning the property "PWUC" and adopting specific regulations to govern development permits in the new PWUC zone. The City of Shoreline, the Town of Woodway, and the citizens group Save Richmond Beach jointly filed appeals against these two county actions, arguing that the County had violated both the GMA and the SEPA. Joining Snohomish County in defending its actions was Blue Square Real Estate Point Wells (BSRE), the property owner and applicant for an urban center development permit using the PWUC Code.

In its decision, the Growth Board ruled that both the County's 2009 Point Wells Urban Center Plan Amendment, and its 2010 Point Wells Urban Center Code Amendment failed to comply with the Goals of the GMA. The Board also found that because the Urban Center Plan Amendment also violated specific requirements of the GMA, the Board invalidated that County action. In addition, the Board agreed with Shoreline that the SEPA documents that the County had written for these actions was inadequate because it did not evaluate sufficient alternatives and did not describe the impacts of new information that was introduced late into the County's record. The Board ordered the County to amend its Plan to bring it into compliance with the GMA and to do additional SEPA analysis to describe additional alternatives and likely impacts of the Urban Center Plan and Code designations.

The Board rejected the County's assertion that the Point Wells Urban Center is "served by transit." The Board pointed out that transit service does not now exist in any transit agency's long-range plans and rejected the County's argument that transit is available to Point Wells simply because the Sounder commuter train passes through the site. The Board stated:

The Board agrees with [the City] that a "highly efficient transportation system linking major centers" is not satisfied by providing van pools to a Metro park-and-ride two and a half miles away. Nor is "high capacity transit" satisfied by an urban center on a commuter rail line without a stop. There is nothing efficient or multi-modal about an urban center designation that could result in an additional 12,860 car trips per day through a two-lane neighborhood street, or that relies for high capacity transit on an unusable commuter rail line and van pools. FDO, at page 21.

The Board recognized that the only road access to Point Wells is through Shoreline's Richmond Beach neighborhood and ruled that the County has a GMA duty to make its Point Wells land use decisions consistent with Shoreline's existing road level of service standards. The Board stated:

Inter-jurisdictional consistency does not give one municipality a veto over the plans of its neighbor. However, . . . substantial evidence in the record demonstrates that the Point Wells Urban Center redesignation [would make] Shoreline's plan non-compliant with the GMA, as Shoreline has no plans or funding for the necessary road projects to maintain the level of service standards which it has adopted pursuant to GMA mandates . . . Where, as here, the capital planning of necessity involves adjacent jurisdictions, RCW 36.70A.100 mandates that the plans of those jurisdictions be consistent. FDO, at pages 36-37.

The Board's decision recognized that for the County to do the additional revisions and analysis to comply would be a lengthy and complex undertaking. Therefore, the Board gave the County a May 9, 2012 deadline to submit a statement of actions taken to comply, and adopted a schedule for subsequent briefing and a compliance hearing. If the County were to finish its work before that time, it could request an earlier compliance hearing date and schedule.

City of Shoreline staff will continue to coordinate and communicate with Snohomish County staff regarding actions the County may take to comply with the Board's order, potential future interlocal agreements between the City and the County, and future steps the County will take in processing the Urban Center Development Permit that was submitted to the County by BSRE on March 4, 2011.

City staff will also continue to meet with representatives of BSRE to attempt to negotiate a "municipal agreement" between the City and the developer which would address the City's concerns. The City Council receives periodic staff updates on progress on all these matters, provides needed direction to staff, and has sole City decision-making authority regarding any future interlocal agreement with the County, "municipal agreement" with BSRE, or the settlement of any current or future litigation.

For additional information, contact Shoreline Planning Director Rachael Markle at (206) 801-2531 or email her at


Overview & History of the Appeal

On August 12, 2009, the Snohomish County Council adopted Ordinance 09-038 and 09-051 that designated Point Wells as an Urban Center in the County Comprehensive Plan. On November 9, 2009, the City of Shoreline filed a Petition for Review (PFR) with the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board, the state agency in charge of hearing appeals alleging noncompliance with the Growth Management Act (GMA) and the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).

The City's PFR alleges that the Snohomish County action designating Point Wells as an Urban Center is inconsistent with both the County's own Comprehensive Plan and the GMA. In addition, the PFR alleges that the County did not comply with the requirements of SEPA.

The Town of Woodway also filed a PFR with the Growth Board on November 9, and the citizen group Save Richmond Beach filed its PFR on November 12.

On May 12, 2010, the Snohomish County Council adopted Ordinances 09-079 and 09-080 which adopted permanent Urban Center zoning standards and rezoned the Point Wells property to Urban Center. This action was also appealed to the Growth Board.

These issues were heard together by the Board on March 2, 2011. The Growth Board issued its decision on April 25, 2011.


Appeal Documents

  • Nov. 18, 2009
    Order of Consolidation, Notice of Hearing and Preliminary Schedule
  • Dec. 2, 2009
    Order Granting Settlement Extension, Granting Intervention, and Amending Preliminary Schedule
  • Dec. 10, 2009
    Amended Notice of Hearing and Preliminary Schedule
  • Feb. 18, 2010
    Order Granting Second Settlement Extension and Amending Preliminary Schedule
  • Mar. 23, 2010
    Order Amending Preliminary Schedule
  • Apr. 27, 2010
    Order Granting Leave to Amend Petition for Review
  • Jun. 1, 2010
    Order Granting Third Settlement Extension and Amending Preliminary Schedule
  • Aug. 5, 2010
    Order of Consolidation, Notice of Hearing and Preliminary Schedule
  • Aug. 23, 2010
    Order Coordinating Cases, Granting Intervention, Granting Settlement, Extensions and Amending Preliminary Schedules
  • Nov. 18, 2010
    Status Report
  • Apr. 25, 2011
    Final Decision and Order

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