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Covington Revisions to Permitting Process

January 31, 2024

Covington is among the cities working to bring its development regulations, specifically its permitting processes, into compliance with new mandates on cities and counties in Senate Bill 5290, which the legislature passed during the 2023 session.

The bill requires that:

  • Within 20 business days of a project permit application being submitted to local governments, applicants must receive a written notice that their application is complete, or that the application is incomplete, together with an outline of what is necessary to make the application procedurally complete. The notice may also include information on the development regulations that may be used to make a decision on the application. If no notice is received within 29 days, the application is considered complete. A determination of “completeness” is important because it triggers the amount of time remaining for a city or county to make a final decision on the permit application.
  • The new law also requires local governments to establish and implement timelines for each type of project permit application in their development regulations. Cities that fail to process permits on-time more than 50% of the time are required to revise how they are doing business. Additionally, the law authorizes refunds to applicants if local governments do not complete permit processing on time. Local governments are provided some flexibility, but only if they adopt a specific ordinance. Otherwise, the timelines should not exceed:
    • 45 days for permits which do not require public notice
    • 70 days for permits which require public notice; and
    • 120 days for permits which require public notice and a public hearing.
  • Any time-period longer than 120 days may be appealed. The law contains some specific exemptions that allow for additional time, and instructions for the calculation of time.
  • Each city and county “fully planning under GMA” (which includes all jurisdictions in the central Puget Sound region) must begin collecting information in 2024 to produce an Annual Performance Report that discloses specifically-required information about its performance on certain types of permits associated with housing. The reports must be included on city websites, and provided to the Washington Department of Commerce by March 1st. Then, by July 1 of each year, Commerce is required to publish an analysis that identifies which jurisdictions are using best practices to complete processing of permit applications efficiently. In addition, the new law also identifies several very specific recommendations cities are encouraged to adopt to help improve permitting efficiencies to bring new housing units to the market more rapidly. The Washington Department of Commerce is required to convene a work group to identify best practices, and to report back to the legislature by August 2024. In the meantime, the law also provides grant funding and technical assistance through the Department of Commerce to help cities evaluate and improve their permitting processes.
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