1. Authority to Enforce the Code.
General. The Washington Constitution provides that: “[a]ny city, county, town or township may make and enforce within its limits all such local police, sanitary and other regulations as are not in conflict with general laws.”
Zoning. Cities and towns in Washington have long been required to adopt comprehensive plans which serve the public interest by anticipating and influencing the orderly and coordinated development of land and building uses. Zoning ordinances implement and give effect to the comprehensive plan by dividing the city into appropriate zones within which specific standards regulate the use, density, location, height, bulk, number of stories, size of buildings and structures, setbacks, parking, etc. These regulations ensure compatibility of uses and buildings within zones, predictability of impacts associated with the use and appropriate location of infrastructure and utilities, all of which is desirable to the public. To be constitutionally valid, a zoning regulation must provide a legitimate public benefit without being unduly burdensome on the individual property owner, and the adoption process must meet due process standards.
In 1990, the Growth Management Act was adopted to address the “uncoordinated growth” and “lack of common goals expressing the public’s interest in the conservation and wise use of our lands” which poses a “threat to the environment, sustainable economic development and the health, safety and high quality of life enjoyed by the residents of Washington.” Highly structured comprehensive land use planning was mandated for certain municipalities, with citizen participation and cooperation in the planning process identified as one major goal to guide the development and adoption of such plans.
In 1995, certain municipalities were also required to adopt ordinances establishing an integrated and consolidated permit project process, to be included in their development regulations. Notice to the public of the receipt of project permit applications is integral to this process, which notice includes substantial detail on the application, decisions made on the application to date, environmental information, statements of preliminary determinations on the application, as well as the date, time, place and type of hearing on the application. All of these procedures are calculated to provide notice to the public of the pending development application at the earliest possible stage. Usually, the municipality also allows at least one administrative appeal of the project permit application, which provides additional public input in the decision-making process.
Drafting enforceable development regulations and permit conditions is beyond the scope of this article. There are a number of tests that the courts apply to determine whether a code provision is valid and enforceable. For example, (a) there must be a public problem or evil that the regulation will address; (b) the regulation must tend to solve the problem; and (c) the regulation must not be unduly oppressive upon the person regulated. The tests may differ depending on whether the penalties to be imposed are criminal or civil. […]