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MRSC Insight Blog


Posts for Steve Butler

Infill Housing Approaches: Targeting the Missing Middle and Accessory Dwellings

Infill Housing Approaches: Targeting the Missing Middle and Accessory Dwellings

As cities and counties look to expand housing supply in their communities, many are considering infill development, or developing vacant or under-utilized parcels within existing, developed areas. Missing middle housing and accessory dwelling units are two options to consider.

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Increasing Local Housing Supply Through Missing Middle Housing

Increasing Local Housing Supply Through Missing Middle Housing

Local governments seeking to expand housing options may want to consider a missing middle program that champions use of housing types which may fly under the radar, such as cottage housing, duplexes, and triplexes, alongside more trendy approaches like live-work developments. 

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A New Approach for Dealing with Conditional Uses in Your Zoning Code

A New Approach for Dealing with Conditional Uses in Your Zoning Code

Conditional use permits, most often used for certain land uses that might not normally fit into a zoning category but could work if the proposed use meets certain conditions, can be made into a more efficient and effective zoning tool with some modifications. 

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Preserving Affordability Through Manufactured Home Park Zones

Preserving Affordability Through Manufactured Home Park Zones

Manufactured homes are often overlooked yet can be an important affordable housing option. Local governments can protect them by creating new zones (or strengthening existing regulations) that designate areas specifically for manufactured home parks. 

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Continued Use of the Public Right-of-Way for Outside Dining

Continued Use of the Public Right-of-Way for Outside Dining

This blog examines the key components of local parklet/streatery programs that were established during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and how Washington’s local governments are now evaluating the future of those programs.

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Using Affordable Housing Overlay Zones to Reduce the Risk of Displacement

Using Affordable Housing Overlay Zones to Reduce the Risk of Displacement

Increased zoning can sometimes result in gentrification of a community and the displacement of vulnerable populations. Affordable housing overlay zoning is a tool that can help to increase density without triggering the unintended consequences of gentrification and displacement.

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Affordable Housing and the Impact of Short-Term Rentals

Affordable Housing and the Impact of Short-Term Rentals

Do an increasing number of short-term rentals impact the local housing market, especially for low- and moderate-income residents? Research suggests it does, and some local governments are regulating short-term rentals differently as a result.

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What Is a 15-Minute City? (And Why You Should Care)

What Is a 15-Minute City? (And Why You Should Care)

What types of amenities and services can you get to within 15 minutes of leaving your front door? The 15-Minute City concept encourages the development of walkable neighborhoods where a variety of services are within easy reach. 

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Changing Your Zoning Code to Accommodate Housing and Shelters for the Homeless

Changing Your Zoning Code to Accommodate Housing and Shelters for the Homeless

This blog provides and overview and guidance regarding E2SHB 1220, which encourages local governments to take active steps to accommodate transitional housing, emergency shelters, and similar facilities via zoning and regulatory updates.

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Six Suggested Actions for Planners during the Extended COVID-19 Pandemic

Six Suggested Actions for Planners during the Extended COVID-19 Pandemic

This blog suggests some action items planners can undertake during the COVID-19 pandemic to encourage commerce, promote recreational opportunities, and streamline the planning process. 

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COVID-19 Pandemic Makes Economic Development More Important Than Ever

COVID-19 Pandemic Makes Economic Development More Important Than Ever

This blog looks at what activities local governments can undertake to assist local businesses. 

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Encouraging Small-Scale Manufacturing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Encouraging Small-Scale Manufacturing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

This blog post looks at small-scale manufacturing, its role in a strong local economy, and how local governments can encourage the growth of these critical businesses. 

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2020 Legislative Outcomes for Planning and Land Use-Related Issues

2020 Legislative Outcomes for Planning and Land Use-Related Issues

This blog post summarizes major planning/land use-related bills that were passed during the 2020 Washington State legislative session. 

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Quickly Switching Over to an Online Permitting/Plan Review System

Quickly Switching Over to an Online Permitting/Plan Review System

This blog post highlights local planning/building departments that quickly converted from a traditional permitting/plan review process to an online system.

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Creative Use of Street ROW During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Creative Use of Street ROW During the COVID-19 Pandemic

This blog post reviews how local governments can allow temporary use of the public ROW for business activity during the pandemic. 

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Planning for the Safe Reopening of Public Buildings

Planning for the Safe Reopening of Public Buildings

Local governments are in the process of planning how and when they will reopen facilities, both for staff and for the public. This blog post offers some suggestions to consider in a phased reopening. 

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Permanent Supportive Housing: One Option for Addressing Homelessness

Permanent Supportive Housing: One Option for Addressing Homelessness

This blog post looks at permanent supportive housing, which offers low-barrier affordable housing, health care, and supportive services to formerly homeless individuals, by profiling a related project in Everett. 

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Announcing an Updated Homelessness & Housing Toolkit

Announcing an Updated Homelessness & Housing Toolkit

In 2017 MRSC partnered with the Association of Washington Cities to develop the Homelessness & Housing Toolkit for Cities. This publication has been updated for 2019 and covers such hot-topic items as SHB 1406, Martin v. City of Boise, and more. 

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New Bill Provides Incentives for Washington Cities to Increase Residential Capacity

New Bill Provides Incentives for Washington Cities to Increase Residential Capacity

This past legislative session saw the passage E2SHB 1923, a bill intended to encourage more residential development capacity and increase local governments’ emphasis on affordable housing. 

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Providing Exceptional Customer Service at Your Permit Counter

Providing Exceptional Customer Service at Your Permit Counter

This blog post looks at how a city, town, or county can take steps to ensure its front desk staff provide excellent customer service at the permit counter. 

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3 Ways to Make Your Public Plaza More Successful

3 Ways to Make Your Public Plaza More Successful

This blog post highlights three characteristics that will make your public gathering space more successful, including finding the right location, considering access to nearby buildings, and creating public programming to support plaza use.

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Encouraging Neighborhood-Friendly, Residential Infill Development

Encouraging Neighborhood-Friendly, Residential Infill Development

Residential infill development can be used as an approach for communities experiencing a moderate/high rate of residential development or those looking to create a diversity of housing options for all income levels. This blog post looks at options ranging from ADU's to cottage housing and more. 

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Autonomous Vehicles: Coming to a Neighborhood Near You?

Autonomous Vehicles: Coming to a Neighborhood Near You?

Widespread use of autonomous vehicles (self-driving cars) may seem too futuristic to seriously contemplate, but autonomous ridesharing vehicles will be here before you know it.

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The “Ins and Outs” of School Impact Fees

The “Ins and Outs” of School Impact Fees

For many jurisdictions, school impact fees are a potential but underutilized revenue source to help pay for public facilities. This post looks at these fees and the other factors local governments must consider before implementing any.  

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12 Examples of Short-Term Vacation Rental Regulations

12 Examples of Short-Term Vacation Rental Regulations

The issue of internet-based, short-term vacation rentals has been in the news for several years thanks to the growth of companies like Airbnb and VRBO. This post offers examples of local government short-term vacation rental regulations.

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Recent Changes to Washington’s Land Use and Planning Laws

Recent Changes to Washington’s Land Use and Planning Laws

The most recent Washington state legislative session resulted in changes to the Growth Management Act and tweaks to other land use/planning-related statutes. This blog post will provide a summary of some of those recently passed bills.

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When is a Development Application Ready for Review?

When is a Development Application Ready for Review?

Once a jurisdiction determines that a planning-related application is complete it has 120-days to  make a decision on that proposal. But what makes an application complete? MRSC Planning Consultant Steve Butler reviews the options. 

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Using Citizen Academies to Educate and Engage your Citizenry

Using Citizen Academies to Educate and Engage your Citizenry

Citizens academies offer constituents the opportunity to learn about different aspects of local government functions via a one-time or a series of presentations. This blog looks at a few examples of citizens academies, both within and outside of Washington State.

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Tiny Houses as a Workable Option to House the Homeless

Tiny Houses as a Workable Option to House the Homeless

Tiny houses, small structures designed to provide temporary shelter, can be a low-cost method for housing the homeless and offer local governments a better option than having people sleep on the streets or in tents. This post looks at a few models operating successfully here in the Pacific Northwest.

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Inclusionary Zoning: One Approach to Create Affordable Housing

Inclusionary Zoning: One Approach to Create Affordable Housing

One approach used by a number of cities to increase the supply of affordable housing is called "inclusionary zoning," which requires affordable units to be included within new residential development projects or requires payment for construction of affordable units elsewhere.

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9 Elements of Successful Small Parks and Plazas

9 Elements of Successful Small Parks and Plazas

We're lucky to have so much access to spectacular open spaces and parks in Washington, but most of us can only get there during weekends or vacations. In the meantime, it's important to have access to small parks, plazas, and open spaces. So what are the secret ingredients to a successful small park or plaza?

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Accessory Dwelling Units under the Microscope

Accessory Dwelling Units under the Microscope

A look at what ADUs are, how they are regulated by Washington local governments, and new regualtory innovations that may help increase their production.

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Planners and Police Officers Working Together to Create Livable and Safe Communities

Planners and Police Officers Working Together to Create Livable and Safe Communities

Using Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) planners and police officers are working together more and more to achieve each other’s complementary goals to achieve an inviting and safe community.

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8 Key Components of an Effective Planning-related Staff Report

8 Key Components of an Effective Planning-related Staff Report

An overview and some tips about what makes a quality planning staff report.

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Local Government Catching Up with Airbnb and Other Short-Term Transient Rental Businesses

Local Government Catching Up with Airbnb and Other Short-Term Transient Rental Businesses

A look at some important issues to address if you plan on regulating short-term rentals in your community.

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Tiny Homes: Coming to a Neighborhood Near You?

Tiny Homes: Coming to a Neighborhood Near You?

Zoning and construction regulations create significant barriers against tiny homes, especially if someone wants to live in them on a permanent basis. This blog covers some the things to consider in the regulation of tiny homes in local communities.

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The Importance of Bringing Your Sign Code Up-to-Date

The Importance of Bringing Your Sign Code Up-to-Date

Practical tips for how to update your sign code in order to address the implications of the recent Reed v. Town of Gilbert case.

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Taking Deliberate Steps to Improve The Development Permitting Process

Taking Deliberate Steps to Improve The Development Permitting Process

A look at how Redmond, Renton, and Kittitas County improved their permit processes using lean.

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Highlights from the 2015 National Planning Conference

Highlights from the 2015 National Planning Conference

Last month, over 6,400 planners from across the country came up to Washington State for the National Planning Conference, which took place in Seattle, April 18-21.  MRSC Planning Consultant Steve Butler joined the wonk-filled activities and shares some of his thoughts and highlights from the four-day event.

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