City receives the go-ahead for comprehensive plan update

Update is due to the state by June of 2024.

After receiving city council approval of the scope of work, master schedule and public participation plan for the Mercer Island comprehensive plan update, the city will now begin taking steps toward renovating the plan for the years 2024-2044.

Council passed three motions to give the go-ahead for the two-year process at its March 15 meeting and the update is due to the state by June of 2024. Port of Seattle grant funding for the city’s economic development element was also on the meeting docket and staff will ask for authorization to accept the funding at a council meeting this spring.

According to Alison Van Gorp, the city’s deputy director for community planning and development, the state requires the city to update the plan every nine years. She explained, “The plan is the vision and road map for growth in the community, looking at all sorts of aspects: not just housing development, but economic development, transportation, utilities, environment, parks, everything.”

The Washington State Growth Management Act (GMA) also requires the city to periodically review its plan, the city’s website notes.

Over the next few months, Van Gorp and others will be assembling work groups featuring city council and planning commission members to focus on myriad elements, including more in-depth focus on housing and economic development.

“There’s also some new requirements coming out of the countywide planning policies and some of the state legislation that’s passed in the last year or two asking us to do some additional analysis to look at what the needs are in our community for different types of housing and to serve different economic segments of the community,” said Van Gorp, adding that with the new analysis at its fingertips, the city will be updating its goals and policies in the housing realm.

Adam Zack, a city senior planner with a primary focus on long-range planning, added that a portion of the update will be setting growth targets for housing and employment over a 20-year period with the Puget Sound Regional Council and King County.

“Each city has those two growth targets and needs to make sure that the plan is able to accommodate those,” said Zack, using an example that if they did expect a certain number of new houses then they would need to match that with more sewer or road capacity.

He added: “Because our housing projection stayed relatively the same, we don’t expect to do any kind of density work during this. So we’re probably not going to be increasing residential density. Our housing goals and policies will be kind of a more refined approach than just increasing density, which is not expected.”

During the comment period on the scope of work for the comprehensive plan, Van Gorp said that city council and planning commission members suggested additions, such as a new zone for park land and an update to the bike and pedestrian facilities plan.

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