Code Amendments

Code Amendments

The Planning Department is responsible for amending and updating the City's land development regulations.  Development regulations in the Snohomish Municipal Code are found within Title 14.

Development regulations are intended to implement and be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan goals and policies.  Proposed amendments to the development code are first considered at a public hearing by the Planning Commission, which makes a recommendation to the City Council.  The City Council typically holds a second public hearing before taking action on a code amendment.  All development code amendments are adopted by City Council ordinance.

Amendments to the development code may be initiated by the City Council, the Planning Commission, staff, or citizens. 

Find links to our current codes on the Code Compliance page.

Wetland Regulations Update (2019)

The City is currently in the process of updating its wetland regulations to comply with state requirements.  Since the beginning of the year, the Planning Commission has been studying and discussing the issues.  At a special meeting on June 26th, the Commission will continue its review of proposed revised code language that has been drafted by staff with assistance from the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) and the City’s on-call wetland consultant, ESA.  Go to the Agenda Center to download the agenda packet for the next Planning Commission meeting.  

wetland image

Vegetated wetland

The Planning Commission is tentatively scheduled to hold a public hearing on the proposed new code language in August before making a recommendation to the City Council.  The City Council is tentatively scheduled to consider the Planning Commission’s recommendation and adopt an ordinance in September.

If you would like to submit comments on the proposed changes or would like to be listed as a Party of Interest (so you will be notified by email of all meetings and updates to this web page) contact Planning Director Glen Pickus via email or telephone (360-282-3173).

Three chapters of the Snohomish Municipal Code will be affected by this update:

The third drafts of proposed code changes can be viewed and downloaded by clicking these links:

  • SMC 14.100:  New definitions are proposed, while others are revised and some are deleted.
  • SMC 14.255:  This chapter is proposed to be retained but significantly amended.
  • SMC 14.260:  This chapter is proposed to be repealed and replaced.

The Washington State Growth Management Act (GMA) requires cities to periodically review and update their critical areas ordinances to ensure they are up-to-date and use the “best available science” (BAS).  Critical areas include wetlands, habitat areas along streams and rivers, steep slopes and geologic hazard areas, flood hazard areas, and critical aquifer recharge areas. 

The City’s current critical area and wetland regulations were adopted in 2005.  Since then, new scientific information has been published which must be incorporated into the City’s wetland regulations.  In this update effort, BAS developed by DOE will be used.

Protecting wetlands is important because of the beneficial functions they provide, including:

  • Storing flood waters to minimize flooding and erosion;
  • Providing wildlife habitat;
  • Recharging water quality through biofiltration and other means;
  • Contributing to stream flow during low flow periods; and
  • Stabilizing stream banks.

The way to protect wetlands can be summarized with the A-B-C Approach:

  • Avoid wetland impacts to the extent possible
  • Buffer wetlands to protect them from adjacent land use impacts
  • Compensate for unavoidable impacts

Therefore, wetland regulations must minimize the loss of wetland area and wetland functionality due to development.  This is done by identifying where wetlands exist and then imposing protective buffers around the wetland and requiring mitigation when development negatively impacts a wetland's functionality.  For some basic information on how wetlands are identified, click here.

To help staff and the Planning Commission understand how updated regulations based on the latest BAS will influence development, the City contracted with ESA to perform an analysis.  To download a copy of ESA's technical memorandum, click here.

Code Interpretations

The Land Use Development Code, Title 14 of the Snohomish Municipal Code (SMC), authorizes the Planning Director to interpret the code where it is unclear or contradictory and to determine whether a land use is allowed when the land use tables don’t anticipate that use.  The Director must issue a written interpretation to formalize that determination in order to establish a clear precedent.  This authority and relevant rules for code interpretations are found in SMC 14.05.050 and SMC 14.207.060.

Vacation Rentals

The Director has issued a code interpretation to clear up confusion regarding the difference between a Bed & Breakfast establishment and a vacation rental (sometimes referred to as an “Airbnb”).  While Bed & Breakfast establishments are regulated in Title 14 and have been since 1983, the code did not anticipate the popularity of vacation rentals so the term isn’t defined nor is the use identified in the land use tables.

The code interpretation defines “Vacation Rental” to mean the same as “Short-term Rental”.  

A “Vacation Rental” is a furnished dwelling unit, or room within a dwelling, or an Accessory Dwelling Unit, that is rented out on a daily or weekly basis for periods of less than 30 days.  When the entire dwelling unit is rented it shall be occupied by no more than five (5) people who are travelling together as a group. 

When a portion of the dwelling united is rented, only one room may be rented at one time and that room may be occupied by no more than three (3) people.

Vacation Rentals will be allowed in any dwelling unit and do not require any City permits; however a City business license is required.

Download the full code interpretation.