RCW 36.70A.106(1), which requires that proposed amendments to comprehensive plans and development regulations in GMA jurisdictions be submitted to the Department of Commerce (DOC) at least 60 days prior to adoption, makes no distinction between substantive and procedural development regulations. So, the language of the statute would seem to require that changes to procedural regulations also be submitted for this 60-day review. However, it's our understanding that, as a practical matter, DOC does not look at or have the time to review amendments to development regulations that are solely procedural.
Nevertheless, it appears that strict compliance with this requirement is necessary, according to the Growth Management Hearings Board. In Cameron-Woodard Homeowners' Association v. Island County, Order on Dispositive Motion, WWGMHB Case No. 02-2-0004 (2002), confronted this issue directly and held that procedural amendments must be submitted to CTED (now Department of Commerce) under RCW 36.70A.106(1):
For the first time, this case singularly presents the issue of whether compliance can be found for a DR amendment which was submitted not in compliance with RCW 36.70A.106. Regardless of the convenience to the Department and to the various local governments involved, we do not find any language in the GMA which distinguishes between regular, "procedural" or ministerial amendments. RCW 36.70A.106 was adopted in 1991 and has not been amended since that time. It specifically provides that a county "shall notify the Department of its intent to adopt amendments". The notice must be "at least 60 days prior to final adoption." There is no room for interpretation of this statute as the language is direct and specific.
We do not have the authority, as the County implies, to overlook a failure to comply. The GMA is clear that if a Board finds a failure to comply, it must remand the matter to the County to cure the noncompliance.
In order to comply with the GMA, the County must submit Ordinance C-159-01 to the Department anew. It is not sufficient that the ordinance was submitted subsequent to its adoption in order to comply with this portion of the statute. The submission must be accompanied by a notice indicating that 60 days are available for review and that comments by "state agencies, including the department" will be considered as if final adoption had not yet occurred.
So, the town should send its proposed amendment to procedural development regulations to DOC at least 60 days prior to adoption.
If time is an issue, however, another option would be for the local government to request “expedited review” for any minor changes to its development regulations (whether procedural or non-procedural), as allowed under RCW 36.70A.106(3)(b). This type of request may be granted by DOC, after consultation with other state agencies, if it determines that the request will not compromise its ability to provide timely comments. Cities and counties may adopt proposed amendments “immediately following the granting of the request for expedited review.”
Note: In the specific hearings board case cited above, the procedures were factually determined to be part of the development regulations in question. Many local governments, however, have created a “development permit procedures and administration” chapter in their codes, separate and distinct from their specific development regulations. This separate type of chapter addresses the processes and timelines for a wide variety of regulations (from electrical and building codes to subdivision and zoning codes), and does not include specific “controls placed on development or land use activities” (from the definition of development regulation contained in RCW 36.70A.030). It is unclear whether or not the hearings board would view a separate “permit procedures and administration” chapter as being part of a local government’s development regulations.
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