Governor’s Smart Communities Award winners honored for excellence in planning for growth and economic development

  • October 6, 2021

New category for 2020-21 recognizes local government strategies for addressing impacts of climate change.

OLYMPIA, WA —Gov. Jay Inslee and Department of Commerce Director Lisa Brown recently announced the 11 Smart Communities Award winners for 2020-21. Launched in 2006, the Governor’s Smart Communities Awards program annually recognizes local governments and their partners for exceptional work in implementing the state’s Growth Management Act (GMA) to shape future growth, economic vitality and quality of life in communities across Washington.

“I’m proud to showcase another impressive cohort of Smart Communities Award winners, each representing creative leadership and collaboration that will enrich these communities for years to come,” said Gov. Jay Inslee.

“These award winners model best practices that can easily be adapted by other communities,” said Commerce Director Lisa Brown. “Their work demonstrates how thoughtful planning with robust public engagement can build shared vision and buy-in for meaningful action on important priorities and projects that strengthen communities.”

This year’s award winners, selected from 16 nominations by a panel of judges, focused on achievements in the areas of job growth, economic development, housing affordability, homelessness, parks and recreation, transportation, subarea development and, new this year, climate change strategies.

Smart Vision Award for a comprehensive plan, subarea plan or county-wide planning policies.

Artist rendering of a downtown block proposed in Airway Heights

Airway Heights award-winning downtown subarea plan aims to enhance housing and mixed-use development in the downtown and along U.S. Highway 2.

  • City of Airway Heights – Airway Heights Downtown Sub-Area Plan. This plan aims to enhance the housing and mixed-use development in the downtown and along U.S. Highway 2. The judges noted that the updated commercial zoning guide and development standards clearly show that this plan will benefit the rapidly growing community: “Airway Heights is a small city transitioning into a large city and this plan smartly adds missing-middle housing, sets realistic expectations, and builds on existing plans, which is a model for other rapidly growing communities.”
  • City of Kent – Rally the Valley: Kent Valley Manufacturing/Industrial Center Subarea Plan. Rally the Valley seeks to address the effects of evolving technology, transformations in industry, outdated land use policies and fiscal constraints on the Kent Valley through goals, policies, projects and programs that steer toward the community’s vision. The city’s vision notes “the Kent Valley is recognized as a thriving, economically resilient industrial ecosystem, a center for productive business and a healthy, desirable place to work.”

Smart Projects Award for a project implementing a comprehensive plan.

Artist rendering of the City of North Bend's vision for redevelopment in a portion of the downtown commercial district

“Smart Project” Award Winner, the city of North Bend, is taking an innovative “form-based code” approach to redevelopment in the downtown commercial to secure its future as a social, cultural and entertainment destination. 

  • City of North Bend – Downtown Form-Based Code. The North Bend Downtown Commercial Zone project included a new form-based code with the intention of helping redevelopment fit the character of the community and provide more housing options. A form-based code is an innovative land development regulation that fosters predictable built results and a high-quality public outcome by using physical form, rather than separation of uses, as the organizing principle for the code. This project will enhance the downtown area and secure its future as a social, cultural and entertainment destination.
  • City of Lake Stevens – Downtown Lake Stevens Subarea Plan. This ongoing project, with support from elected officials, staff, consultants and members of the community, identifies “fundamental concepts” to create a dynamic and transformational downtown that honors the past and looks to the future. Through deliberate actions, the city started implementing the subarea plan in 2017 and notes that it has been a “labor of love” to revitalize the downtown into the civic hub and community gathering place residents and visitors enjoy today. The judges noted that the projects listed in the Downtown Lake Stevens Subarea Plan continue to receive priority through local funding and commitment, instead of depending on grants. This is one reason it received the 2020-21 Governor’s Smart Projects Award.

    Photo of new moderate-risk waste facility in Chelan County

    Chelan County coordinated with multiple cities, the state departments of Ecology and Commerce, and businesses including waste haulers and recyclers, for this Smart Project award winner.

  • Chelan County and the cities of Wenatchee, Chelan, Cashmere, Entiat, Leavenworth – Chelan County Hazardous Waste Facility and Solid Waste and Hazardous Waste Plans. This project was coordinated with all the cities and the county, as well as the state departments of Ecology and Commerce. Businesses also participated in the development, including waste haulers and recyclers. Judges called out the reuse part of the plan, in which the project nomination said: Chelan County has many beautiful streams, mountains and desert areas for abundant recreation and tourism.  By safely diverting waste material to safe disposal and reuse, we also educate people on the harm toxic waste can cause if dumped into the environment.  Prevention is much less costly than cleaning up a brownfield site. After developing the plan, other jurisdictions have asked to use it as a model in their communities.

Smart Partnership Award for a joint public project that implements a comprehensive plan.

  • City of Renton – Willowcrest Townhomes. This project is recognized as innovative for its partnerships, financing and design. In collaboration with Homestead Community Land Trust, Renton Housing Authority, and JP Morgan Chase Bank foundation, Renton created the first multifamily net-zero energy and permanently affordable homeownership development in King County and implements the 2016 Sunset Area Transformation Plan. Judges highlighted this work as a model for others looking to begin climate-focused projects and environmental justice work.

Smart Housing Strategies Award for creative plans, policies, programs and/or actions.

  • City of Lacey – Pre-Approved Accessory Dwelling Unit Plans. The purpose of providing free pre-approved accessory dwelling unit (ADU) plans to Lacey residents is to make it faster and cheaper to build them. Developed by an architect, the free plans are available for anyone to use, including other jurisdictions seeking to streamline ADU development. Of note is the work the city completed with local lending institutions to share information and knowledge about the pre-approved designs to allow them time to determine how they can best provide financing for interested residents. This demonstrates opportunities for infill development in existing neighborhoods, and clearly carries out the goals and requirements of the GMA as well as local objectives. Adding ADUs to older neighborhoods provides for gentle densification, maintenance of neighborhood character and access to commercial services nearby. Providing a variety of housing types near transit, schools and services is a key goal in the city’s comprehensive plan housing element. In addition to tangible savings in time and money, an added benefit of pre-approved plans is significantly decreased permit review time because the focus is on site plan review. Building and energy code review is minimal because the plans have those requirements designed into them with a few selectable options. Design costs can be up to 10% of a project’s costs, which homeowners and builders can now either save or put into construction costs.

    Photo of a model housing unit that reuses a shipping container

    The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe invited developers of cottage, modular and cargo container housing to show how their innovative products meet community needs and goals for suitability, quality and cost.

  • Jamestown S’Klallam TribeJamestown S’Klallam Tribe Housing Solutions Study. This study determined housing requirements for the Tribe’s elders, families, transitional households and casino and resort workforce. The study conducted extensive outreach identifying housing preferences and priorities for the development of a multigenerational community respecting Tribal cultural sites and aesthetics while allowing for non-Tribal member residents. The judges noted the housing marketplace as an innovative idea for other jurisdictions. The Tribe invited three very different developers of cottage, modular and cargo container housing to discuss the ability of their innovative products’ suitability, quality and cost to meet community needs. Subsequently, they created housing and site development concepts, costs and potential funds for six of the Tribe’s properties using results gathered from focus groups, working groups, a household survey and the housing marketplace. This solutions study is already providing a community benefit, resulting in four strategic actions identified for immediate initiation by the Tribe and opening up opportunities for funding and resources.

Smart Climate Change Strategies Award for plans, policies, programs and/or actions addressing community climate impacts.

  • City of Olympia – Olympia Transportation Master Plan. Olympia is growing, and the community needs to plan a transportation system that will keep everyone moving. The transportation master plan bridges the goals and policies of the city’s comprehensive plan and annual capital facilities plan. Their transportation planning team led this three-year process. Noted in the nomination submission is that “the plan also explores the technological changes on the horizon that may alter how we get around, from delivery robots on sidewalks to autonomous vehicles. It examines maintenance practices and considers the connections between transportation and social equity and seeks ways for the system to enhance service to the most vulnerable.” Judges awarded Olympia the first Smart Climate Change Strategies Award for this innovative approach to transportation planning.

Judges’ Merit Award

  • Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) – VISION 2050: A Plan for the Central Puget Sound Region. Adopted by PSRC’s general assembly in October 2020 after a three-year long planning process, VISION 2050 includes multicounty planning policies, actions and a regional growth strategy to guide how and where the region grows through 2050. VISION 2050 ambitiously guides the central Puget Sound region’s anticipated growth of more than 1.5 million people over the next 30 years with a vision and specific implementation actions to become a more prosperous, sustainable and equitable region. The region’s cities, counties, Tribes, ports, agencies, businesses and communities worked together to adopt VISION 2050 to prepare for this growth and serve as a guide for sustaining a healthy environment, thriving communities and a strong economy.
  • City of Kirkland: Village at Totem Lake. The judges were extremely impressed with this project, noting that it is the “transformation of a ‘70s era mall into a transit-oriented mixed-use village,” and a substantial joint public-private partnership investment project. The project, consisting of 336,707 square feet of commercial space and 851 dwelling units, realizes the vision for the Totem Lake Urban Center from the Totem Lake Plan adopted in 2002. Judges noted the Totem Lake project is an excellent example of the implementation of a long-range community plan.

To learn more about the Governor’s Smart Communities Awards program visit our webpage.

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