As our region’s population continues to grow, policy makers at all levels are focused on planning for the future growth that is anticipated and the challenges that come along with it. Snohomish County and its cities are currently in the process of updating our long-term growth strategies. These will culminate in the form of local comprehensive plan updates in 2023.
Prior to those comprehensive plan updates, the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) is putting forward a document titled “Vision 2050” which is an update to the previous “Vision 2040” document. The PSRC is a four-county regional planning organization made up of Snohomish, King, Pierce, and Kitsap Counties and the cities within them. The PSRC sets growth targets, strategies, and allocates federal infrastructure dollars to transportation projects in the region.
In my capacity as Chair of the Snohomish County Council’s Planning Committee and Co-Chair of Snohomish County Tomorrow (our local planning organization), I have been working with local policymakers to ensure that North Snohomish County has a strong voice throughout these processes.
In recent comment letters from Snohomish County, we have emphasized the need for local authority and flexibility in planning for growth. Because the PSRC is dominated by King County representatives due to population, I believe it is important to ensure that Snohomish County is able to maintain local authority so that urban Seattle representatives are not mandating policy for all parts of the Puget Sound region.
The policies adopted in Vision 2050 will have significant impacts on the housing supply and, in turn, the affordability of housing in Snohomish County. As I have written before, we must look at how local policies and regulations affect housing prices. Reducing excessive regulatory barriers and addressing the shortage of housing supply are both essential in order to stabilize housing costs.
We are also working to ensure that the policies within Vision 2050 allow property owners to use their property at its highest and best use. Seattle forces are attempting to limit what rural property owners can do with their land. I have been sharply critical of such efforts and will continue to fight for the property rights of Snohomish County residents.
Part of Vision 2050 also focuses on a housing and employment balance. The recent designation of the Cascade Industrial Center in Arlington/Marysville will bring more federal transportation dollars to the area to increase the ability of North County residents to live and work in their communities. I believe it is critical that our infrastructure keeps up with the growth we are seeing; this funding will move us in the right direction on that. Greater federal transportation funding and more family-wage jobs closer to home will help reduce traffic demand on our already congested freeways and roads and increase the quality of living for North County residents.
I will continue to advocate for the residents of north Snohomish County throughout the process of review and approval of Vision 2050 at the PSRC. I will be sure to keep you informed as these regional policies trickle down to the local level in the comprehensive plan process.
Nate Nehring is a member of the Snohomish County Council and represents District 1 which includes Arlington, Darrington, Granite Falls, Marysville, Stanwood, and unincorporated north county. He can be reached by email at Nate.Nehring@snoco.org or by phone at (425) 388-3494.