Development Feasibility Checklist
1. Planning & Feasibility Issues.
A. Determine Applicable Zoning & Vesting. Determine if the property is located within the County’s Urban Growth Boundary. Determine existing Zoning Districts and Urban Growth Boundary for determining scope of existing and permitted uses under permitted use tables and use definitions, and treatment of subject property under City Zoning Codes (lot dimension, size, and access) including need for Comprehensive Plan Amendment, Area-Wide re-zone, or project specific rezone. The review of applicable City or County development regulations should examine what land-use regulations will be in effect on the date of a substantially complete application for vesting purposes.
B. Status Under Comprehensive Plan Policies. Treatment of Property under applicable Comprehensive Plan Elements, including transportation impact fee and fair share tables for roadway system segments affected by development and utility extensions.
C. Examine Municipal & District Utility Comprehensive Plans. Examination of City’s/District’s Utility Plans and proposed Plan Amendments, including Transportation Plan for proposed roadway systems and utility extensions (water, sewer, and storm drainage) [Note: Do not forget existing County Utility Technical Review Committee determinations on the subject property, earlier application, or neighboring development, including existence of Franchise Agreements with municipal jurisdictions. Determine if municipal jurisdictions require either a completed development agreement under RCW 36.70B.170, pre-annexation or full no-protest/non-remonstrance agreements as a condition for obtaining water and sewer certificates, including restrictions on development standards and use of the property.]
D. Determine Existence of Local Improvement District Formation. Determine the existence and requirements of any proposed or pending Local Improvement or Utility Local District Improvements affecting build-out of property (roads, sewers, water).
E. Examine Form Developer Extension Agreements. Developer Extension Agreement requirements of City’s Public Works Department for required extension of water and sewer services. [Note: Existing development may or may not include transferable certificate rights to water and sewer service. DEA requirements may also include pre-annexation or annexation agreement requirements which may require compliance with higher City utility improvement standards than County standards.]
F. Examine Form & Execution Requirements for Certificates of Water & Sewer Availability. Review the form of Certificates of Water & Sewer Availability, including City’s concurrency (water, sewer & roads) requirements. Health Department requirements and Fire District fire flow requirements should be examined.
G. Examine History of SEPA Decisionmaking Affecting the Parcel. SEPA Environmental Impact Statements or Environmental Decision Documents, including mitigation conditions, already issued by a municipality or other developer concerning or affecting this property in adopted Comprehensive Plans and Sub-Area Plans should be reviewed with the City’s or County’s planners. Determine if your proposal is categorically exempt under State Rules (WAC 197-11-800) and/or local regulations of the City or County.
H. Critical Areas Review. Critical Area designations and sensitive area folio review of the property (wetlands, steep slopes, floodplains, unstable areas, etc.) must be examined along with any proposed changes to such codes, or Draft FEMA maps being reviewed by the affected jurisdictions. New King County critical area regulations require a wetland report and initial delineation before considering an application to be complete for purposes of the Regulatory Reform Act, RCW Chapter 36.70B.
I. Shoreline Management Policies & Setbacks. Shoreline Management Code and Plan requirements, if property is located near or adjacent to shorelines as designated by City.
J. Use of Master Plan Agreement & Phasing. Use of Master Planned Development Agreement alternative is permitted under RCW 36.70B.170 for combining rezone with master plan phases for later build out, dedication, contract rezones or other zoning agreements, including vesting of specific development standards.
K. Location Within Potential Annexation Areas. Different development standards and mitigation requirements may apply if the property is located in unincorporated County, but is within “Potential Annexation Area” of an adjoining City. Be sure to examine any inter-local agreements already executed or being negotiated between the City and County, including any Special District inter-local agreements in existence for water, sewer, and fire service which exist and which may change because of the proposed annexation.
L. State Right-of-Way Access Location of property near or abutting State Routes or Limited Access Facilities, including review of existing City, Developer, and State Transportation Studies and inter-local or inter-governmental agreements in place, affecting right-of-ways, signalization, and condemnation plans for public projects near the subject property. [Note: Development may require private developer’s agreement with WSDOT and channelization plan with extensive Headquarter’s review with signalization warrants depending upon traffic generated from site.]
M. Review Development Plans of Existing Parcel and Structures. Examine carefully existing development plans already approved for the subject property, including existence of non-conforming uses or non-conforming improvements on subject property which may be expanded or allowed to continue without triggering uniform code review. [Note: Any sublease of existing or planned new improvements may trigger new subdivision review by the local jurisdiction in additional to uniform construction codes.]
N. State Environmental Policy Act. Substantive SEPA policies adopted by City applicable to or affecting Comprehensive Plan Amendments, and Area-Wide re-zones. Be sure to inquire as to whether the City/County has approved an earlier development for the subject property in which ongoing SEPA conditions remain in place, such as transportation mitigation or school impact fee agreements. Determine if old SEPA reviews can be incorporated by reference or if the local jurisdiction will allow an “Addendum” to the existing SEPA Environmental Document.
O. Historic Preservation. Application of City’s (or State’s) Historic Preservation District requirements.
P. Storm Drainage Review Even at Planning Stage. Level I review of property status with walk-through, including delineation of wetlands and other sensitive/critical areas. [Note: A Level II hazardous substance review with invasive laboratory testing meeting federal and state CERCLA and State Model Toxic Control Act standards may be required depending upon the prior use of the subject property, including compliance with local leaking underground storage tank procedures and requirements. Examine records of any adjoining commercial property title status of existence of pending or continuing toxics cleanup.]
Q. Compile List of Planning & Development Permits. Assess need for later rezone, conditional use permit, special use permits, street vacation, street use permits, franchise agreement for relocation of utilities or variances. [Note: In most jurisdictions this can be accomplished in a pre-application meeting or demand letter of zoning restrictions under RCW 35.21.475.]
R. Moratoriums. Determine existence of any development or utility moratoriums by the jurisdiction or utility service providers.
S. Determine Approval Timeframes Required for Planning and Zoning Related Matters. Hearings and Appeals procedures for review and approval, including hearings by Examiner with recommendation to City Council or final decision immediately appealable to King County Superior Court or County Council or Growth Management Hearings Board. [Note: Even interim decisions of local agencies may require an administrative appeal if action is disputed. Typical appeal periods are 10 to 14 days, and the failure to appeal almost always bars later judicial review and relief, including damage claims.]
T. Code Violations. Determine the status of any code violations, abatement judgments, which may not be recorded, and which could constitute a development moratorium and could affect the ability to develop property, including initial clearing and grading or boundary line adjustments.
U. Determine Thresholds for Initial Development Which Do Not Require Permits or Approvals. Check the applicability of all zoning/use, development, and construction exemptions which allow initial development without triggering application and approval requirements.
V. Integrating Approvals Into Single Application & Event Calendar. Determine whether and how separate approval and permit requirements can be combined in to into single application and environmental review. Review application timeframes and applicable notice, decision, and appeal periods for creation of critical path event calendar
W. Transportation Concurrency Feasibility and Critical Areas Plan. A transportation concurrency certification and critical areas delineation and plan may be required before an application can even be accepted for processing for any utilities or transportation. [Note: King County currently requires a certification of concurrency from the County’s Department of Transportation showing adequate roadway capacity at AM or PM peak hours before it will accept an application. So-called “critical unfunded links” may exist in any trip distribution examine of project impacts meaning that a specific or critical area is not presently funded to meet the timing necessary for build out of your proposed structure or development. Similarly, a Critical Areas (wetland, steep slope, hazardous area, etc) Plan and delineation is required to be filed before King County will accept any application in a non-urban area outside the Urban Growth Boundary. [Note: If State Department of Transportation review is required because of existing access or new access onto State Routes or Limited Access Highways, care should be taken to determine if a Private Developer’s Agreement , signalization warrant levels, and separate WSDOT mitigation payments will be triggered by the development. In such cases, hiring of a transportation engineer should be a requisite step in any feasibility analysis for any improvement or structure that will be a significant traffic generator.]
X. Existence of latecomer reimbursement agreements affecting the subject property approved by the local jurisdiction by ordinance (required under RCW 35.72.070) allowing the collection of reimbursement amounts to an earlier developer.
2. Subdivision & Ownership Steps & Issues During Feasibility Period
[Some May Also Be Applicable During Planning and Later Permitting Stages].
A. Existing Lot Status. Status of parcels and lot status under County Assessor’s records, including parcel numbers, assessed value, valuation appeals to Board of Equalization, unpaid taxes, unrecorded assessments for municipal improvements, and exemptions to state real estate excise tax. [Note: Examine need for Boundary Line Adjustment, Boundary Line Correction (RCW 58.04.007), quiet title lawsuit, or lot certification by the local planning agency.]
B. Lot History Under Prior Subdivisions. History of Lot’s status under existing or earlier recorded subdivision approvals, boundary/lot line adjustments, and binding site plans, including assessment by civil engineer of alternative lot and ownership configurations.
C. SEPA Review. Project specific SEPA threshold determinations already in existence for property, or new SEPA requirements, including whether the project is categorically exempt, is located within a designated Urban Area (RCW 43.21C.240 – project impacts already satisfied by development codes), and need for new threshold determination under SEPA checklist preparation, including required studies, and applicability of substantive SEPA policies adopted by City in its SEPA authorizing legislation.
D. Subdivision Application. Review City/County’s subdivision requirements, including the availability of permissible “piggy back” and the ability to administratively short plat subject property. [Note: City may require subdivision review of proposed commercial lease which has the operational effect of dividing property.]
E. Permit Approval History for the Property. Review of City’s prior development approvals for the subject property, including assessment of whether new uses will require additional development review and permit or development conditions. (E.g., City may have approved speculative mixed use or commercial structure or single use structure not entirely suited to proposed office or commercial tenant use.)
F. Title Review. Undertake title review, including but not limited to: current ownership status, contiguous ownership requirements, underlying security instrument review, satisfaction of lender financing requirements, confirmation of legal description, existence of encroachments and prescriptive uses, review of existing surveys, current title report, assessing need for ALTA extended coverage, lender requirements, easement locations, recorded as built engineering plans, recorded covenants, conditions, and restrictions, Notices on Title, recorded liens, unpaid taxes, review of legal description exceptions, “subject to’s”, and other title restrictions affecting development of property or change of use. [Note: Adjacent property’s title and ownership status should also be reviewed, including the presence or absence of shared access, sensitive areas Notice of Title, extension of wetland buffers on adjoining parcels, easement rights, and title restrictions affecting the subject property.]
G. Board of Equalization Review. Review the application history of any Board of Equalization appeals, assessed value, and deferred taxes for timber and forest open space programs with the County Assessor’s Office.
H. Vacation of Roadways. Availability of roadway or street vacation opportunities for unused right-of-way.
I. Recorded Access Rights & Limitations on Access. Review of recorded access rights, including adequacy of access and proposed municipal or state transportation projects affecting access, including existing multiple access driveways and ramps, and design of ramps for commercial vehicle access and pedestrian usage.
J. Railroad Easements. The presence of railroad right-of-ways or easements present unique problems by themselves, including the non-availability of easement rights for crossing, right-of-way abandonment, and rails-to-trail issues which may not be capable of extinguishment, but which may be capable of being reduced in width and location.
K. Traditional Zoning Standard Review. Determine compliance with applicable zoning code and development standards related to permitted use, minimum lot size, building dimension, bulk height and density, architectural design, mixed-use and dwelling unit requirements, parking, landscaping, open space, and water use standards, parking, signage, etc.
L. Special District Overlays Determine if compliance in required for Special Overlay District requirements. These typically include cutting limitations, impervious surface area limits, groundwater protection, storm drainage/water quality, and other critical area requirements supplemental to standard CAR code provisions.
M. Utility and Transportation Concurrency. Examine utility and roadway concurrency requirements, including utility availability and costs, and extension requirements, including costs of system upgrades as the first step in any feasibility analysis, including the presence of “unfunded state mandates.” County or City road system may be adequate, but not connected or affected State highway system.
N. Impact Fees. Impact Mitigation requirements (schools, parks, transportation, etc.) whether in the form of impact fees or required improvements.
O. Latecomer Authority. Assess existence of City’s latecomer’s fee authority and public/private development opportunities, including construction of public facilities in exchange for credits toward impact fee payments.
P. LID’s and DEA’s Assess local government contribution for costs of extension of public utilities and streets through Local Improvement Districts, or as conditions in Developer’s Extension Agreements.
3. Local Permitting Requirements.
A. Consult Subdivision & Ownership Steps & Issues above.
B. Create Master Permit Calendar for all local permit approval and appeal periods.
C. Review of and assemble Published Development Bulletins.
D. Review Pre-Application Meeting requirements of the jurisdiction.
E. Review of City’s completeness requirements for submitting and processing complete applications.
F. SEPA review requirements not otherwise satisfied above, including preparation of environmental checklist and required studies.
G. Building permit requirements, including change of use and occupancy affecting planned later tenants uses or occupancies, and deferment of impact fee payment at time of building permit issuance or certificate of occupancy. [Examine scope of existing certificates of occupancy for determination of non-conforming uses, structures, and facilities. Determine if change of occupancy to support new or changed uses requires new building permit review and upgrade to comply with all uniform codes and changes to codes, including on-site parking, ADA access, impact fees, and possible dedication requirements by the permitting jurisdiction.]
H. Franchise approvals to relocation of underground or overhead utilities (power, phones, cable, broadband) with possible utilities Technical Review Committee. [Note: will require review of unrecorded franchise agreements held by City Clerk or Public Works departments or City agreements with County on record with County Council Clerk.]
I. Grading/clearing permit for removal of vegetation and excavation, including sensitive area setback, buffer, and alteration requirements.
J. Shoreline substantial permit requirements.
K. Development Standards required by Uniform Building Code/International Building Code, Uniform Fire Code, Uniform Mechanical Code, Uniform Fire Code, Uniform Electrical Code, Uniform Energy Code, Uniform Plumbing Code, Uniform Seismic Code, Americans with Disabilities Act, including local code changes thereto.
L. Stormwater codes, including compliance with City’s adopted Stormwater Design Manual and updates, including temporary erosion soil controls (usually is the 1998 King County Surface Water Design Manual or State Department of Ecology Stormwater Design Manual for the Puget Sound).
M. Concurrency requirements for water, sewer, transportation, etc., including requirements of Special Purpose Districts where City does not provide services, including Water & Sewer District and Fire District extension and annexation requirements.
N. Depending upon the circumstances, examine interim permits or initial development steps, including grading and clearing permit to establish building set backs, need for boundary line adjustments, street signage, street vacations, demolition permits, temporary use permits, street use permits, access permit, curb cut permits, tenant relocation, and the like.
O. Permit application fees in Washington State are subject to the requirements of RCW 82.02.020 and must be reasonable and based upon the actual cost of review, processing, and inspection of project or permit applications. Carefully review whether the permitting jurisdiction employs open-ended processing and inspection fees based upon hourly charges or fixed fees with maximum fee caps.
P. Critical Areas Regulations are constantly changing. Determine if the jurisdiction will accept a binding wetland or critical areas delineation before submitting a development application, including placement of such areas into a tract for native growth protection, applicable wetland category and buffers, availability of buffer averaging, and wetland relocation on-site or off-site.
4. State Permitting Requirements.
A. Review Forest Practice Permit requirements and forms relating to Class III and IV activities, including the requirement for declaring an intent to develop the subject property and not replant or reforest the subject site. [Note: To preserve the option for later subdivision of such properties, determine lot boundaries, and reserve access for ingress, egress, utilities, and drainage through recorded easement declaration for the roadway corridor. Consult the County or City Road Adequacy Standards to determine minimum roadway with and design requirements before constructing the roadway and recording a reserved easement declaration.]
B. Department of Natural Resources requirements for mining and/or reclamation.
C. Consult State Hydraulic Permit requirements for work in or affecting a watercourse.
D. Department of Ecology Phase II NPDES Permit for Stormwater Discharges Associated With Construction Activities for disturbed areas greater than 1 acre related to the employment of Best Management Practices not otherwise satisfied in local stormwater permit and stormwater manual requirements.
E. State Department of Transportation access permit.
F. Department of Ecology 401 Water Quality Certification.
G. State Historic Preservation requirements.
5. Federal Permitting Requirements.
A. Corps of Engineers Nationwide Permitting or Individual Permit Requirements, including possible other agency review under federal Endangered Species Act.
B. Historic Preservation requirements.
C. Corps of Engineer Section 10 permits for work in navigable waterways.
D. Coast Guard permits for obstructions or improvements in navigable waterways, including bridges.
E. Federal National Environmental Policy Act review (application of categorical exclusions & NEPA determination for preparation of Environmental Assessment or Impact Statement).