2019 Governor’s Smart Communities Award Winners Announced

Innovative local and regional efforts earn 13 communities recognition for outstanding achievements in growth management planning.

OLYMPIA, Wash.  – Gov. Jay Inslee today announced winners of the 2019 Smart Communities Awards.  Now in its 14th year, the program recognizes achievements by local leaders who promote smart growth planning and projects that contribute to thriving communities, a prosperous economy, and sustainable infrastructure in Washington. This year’s honorees include the first winners in a new category focused on creative solutions to address affordable housing development.

“Creativity, collaboration and public engagement are key to ensuring that communities are successful in meeting future growth and prosperity goals,” said Gov. Inslee. “This year’s award-winning plans and projects exemplify some of the reasons why Washington is consistently ranked one of the best states in America.”

Commerce Director Dr. Lisa Brown said, “This year’s Smart Communities Award Winners recognize that effective growth planning cultivates strong communities by supporting good jobs, affordable housing, reliable infrastructure and innovation for a clean, healthy future. These are some of the key attributes that give Washington its unique sense of place and quality of life.”

Here are the 2019 Governor’s Smart Communities Award winners, highlighted with comments from the judges.

Smart Vision Award – Outstanding comprehensive plan, sub-area plan or county-wide planning policies.

  • City of Prosser: City of Prosser Comprehensive Plan 2018. The rewrite of the city’s comprehensive plan was a large undertaking, not only to satisfy the requirement for periodic update, but also to implement new approaches to old problems. Prosser has taken bold steps to address housing needs, new approaches to inclusionary housing, and innovative student engagement in the planning process. The judges recognized Prosser’s broad public visioning process as an outstanding model for other communities: “The visioning process, and resulting plan, were exceptional at simplifying zoning, addressing housing issues head-on, eliminating 20-year deed restrictions and creating incentive policies for housing.”
  • City of Lakewood: Lakewood Downtown Plan. Over 2017 and 2018, Lakewood developed a downtown plan reflecting aspirations of multi-generations, ethnicities, residents, businesses and property owners. The plan envisions a well-designed mixed-use place to live, work and shop. Downtown is enriched by parks that are accessible and traversable by all travel modes, and offers a rich quality of life and strong economy. Lakewood’s robust public outreach and development program were excellent for the community members – the decision-makers involved in the planning process.

Smart Choices Award – Recognizing excellence in implementation of a comprehensive plan.

  • Island County: Rural Lands Regulatory Updates-2018. “Excellent example of how to actually protect resource lands,” said one judge. Island County prepared rural lands regulatory updates in response to overwhelming public input provided in the 2016 comprehensive plan update. Community responses called for regulations that found a balance among economic development, long-term commercial viability of resource lands, impacts to surrounding property owners and rural character. The county did an excellent job conducting a public process that addressed conflicting factors and tension points, and provided a new regulatory structure that encourages economic development while protecting and retaining important resource lands.
  • City of Blaine: Blaine Strategic Economic Initiative (SEI)-2017. “This strategic process demonstrated innovative, thorough, and meaningful public participation. This was a smart use of household surveys for targeted community outreach,” noted one judge. The SEI identified six strategic objectives, including 43 specific action tasks, lead participants, schedules and performance measures. Thanks to excellent community outreach during this strategic process, Blaine voters overwhelmingly approved a Transportation Benefit District, opened a new downtown welcome center, and adopted proposals to create supportable, effective and holistic action-oriented capital facilities programs.
  • City of Vancouver: Vancouver Housing Strategy. “Vancouver delivered on the goods in the form of a housing strategy toolkit for other communities to use! This is a great use of municipal money per capita,” applauded one judge. The Vancouver housing strategy addresses housing needs across a broad range of income levels through direct funding programs, development incentives, zoning code changes and renter protections. This strives to keep Vancouver a vibrant, livable place for all current and future residents by creating and preserving affordable and market-rate housing. It also implements zoning initiatives to increase density and expand the range of available housing types, and leverages partnerships with the Vancouver Housing Authority, nonprofit housing providers and private developers to meet housing needs.

Smart Projects Award – Outstanding project in the implementation of a comprehensive plan.

  • Intercity Transit: Thurston County and the cities of Lacey, Olympia, Tumwater and Yelm — Transit Road Trip Project 2018. The Road Trip project was a two-year program combining technical analysis and unprecedented public engagement to involve residents in transportation solutions. The effort by the multi-jurisdictional authority board launched in response to anticipated budget shortfalls. The potential results include realization of the goal of high-density corridor development and reduction of sprawl, improving access to employment centers and increasing the number of people using transit. “The over 10,000 individual comments, and 66% of votes, validated their two-year public participation process. This was a smart strategy for gaining community support for raising taxes to support local growth management needs,” one judge noted.
  • City of Bellingham: Rapid implementation of Bellingham’s Bicycle Master Plan. Bellingham’s rapid implementation of the 2014 Bicycle Master Plan has created more city-wide bicycle connectivity than any other city of a similar size in Washington. In the five years since adoption, Bellingham Public Works funded and completed over 111 of the 215 individual prioritized bicycle infrastructure projects. Bellingham’s public engagement and annual report on mobility allow for a series of comprehensive actions and opportunities to partner with other agencies and jurisdictions, as well as private developers, to maximize the amount of bicycle connectivity that is funded and constructed each year.

Smart Partnership Award – Achievement by a joint public project that implements a comprehensive plan.

  • City of Walla Walla and partners: Blue Mountain Region Trails Plan 2018. Developed within 16 months and finalized in February 2018, the Blue Mountain Region Trails Plan is the culmination of a collaborative effort, involving 30 city, county, regional, state, federal and tribal entities. The plan outlines a region-wide, non-motorized transportation and trails network that spans southeast Washington and northeast Oregon. It stimulates economic development; encourages walking, biking, and hiking; provides more access to outdoor recreation, and increases the overall quality of life for area residents. This is a unique and unprecedented regional effort, where many regional partners joined forces to complete the development of a non-motorized plan, and recreation network. “Impressive effort! A shining star for growth management, mobility and open space protection,” acknowledged one judge.
  • City of Colville and partners: Colville Downtown Vitalization Plan — “Colville Together” 2018. The City of Colville, the Tri-County Economic Development District (TEDD) and the Main Street Partnership worked together to transform downtown Colville. The strong design vision of the plan was assisted by a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) from the Department of Commerce, and a Complete Streets grant from the Transportation Improvement Board (TIB). “As the heart of the planning effort, the partnerships are a benefit to the community, and now the city has a downtown ‘public space activation program’ attracting tourists to the downtown nearly every weekend in the civic square. Great example of a regional focus to improve the regional community, economic development, and create a central gathering space for all,” judges commented.
  • City of Tukwila and partners: Tukwila Village 2018. “This is the definition of a successful public-private partnership,” wrote one judge. The Tukwila Village project is a new multicultural and multi-generational community and neighborhood center. The tangible benefits are already visible in the form of commercial spaces, high-density residential housing, shared parking, a new public library, and a new public space for community events and gatherings. The pieces of the project fit together and smoothly transition from one use to another. The design requires an ongoing partnership, so the city and its partners took an innovative approach and agreed to jointly form the Tukwila Village Community Development Association (TVCDA). The mission of association is to improve the social welfare of the community and residents of Tukwila Village by promoting arts, economic development, education, health and community building.

Smart Housing Strategies Award — Creative plans, policies, programs and/or actions to address affordable housing.

  • Island County: Housing Element 2018. The county studied housing conditions and reviewed existing policies with the goal of updating the housing chapter of its comprehensive plan, developing a reasonable measures addendum and creating an implementation plan. The research and analysis guided the development of broad goals and policies empowering the county to consider creative solutions. The award submission noted the solutions were innovative out of necessity. Island County is characterized by very small urban growth areas (UGA) and includes an entirely separate island with no UGAs. The results provided unprecedented public engagement from all areas of the county. The resulting housing element brought together and unified very divergent opinions across the county. It became a tool that engaged the community, empowered immediate action and cultivated a greater understanding of the Growth Management Act (GMA).
  • City of Tacoma: Affordable Housing Action Strategy. For many years, the city of Tacoma has worked to tackle its challenges relating to housing affordability, while also working to address a need for a more strategic and sustainable long-term approach to its housing investments. From March to September 2018, the city partnered with other agencies, organizations and community members to develop a comprehensive affordable housing action strategy. The strategy is an equitable response to Tacoma’s accelerating housing market, which has increased displacement pressure and the need for quality, affordable housing. It  was informed by available data, extensive community engagement and input from a core stakeholder group of subject matter experts.

Judges’ Merit Award—Highlighting a nomination that the judges believed to be a model or shining example of the best work in a particular topic.

  • City of Bonney Lake: Watershed Protection and Land Use Planning (WPLUP) 2017. “Their approach to storm water planning is impressive,” was one judge’s comment. The WPLUP project represents a holistic approach to addressing multiple goals of the GMA: preserving and protecting water quality and habitat, encouraging citizen participation, facilitating economic development, promoting healthy lifestyles and accommodating growth in urban areas. The WPLUP project is an example of how a local jurisdiction can create a synergistic relationship between these often competing objectives in a proactive manner that furthers the implementation of the GMA. It is an example of how a local jurisdiction can implement the Department of Commerce’s Building Cities in the Rain.

Washington’s comprehensive Growth Management Act has been in place for 29 years. Using it as a framework, local communities plan and implement their visions for the future. For more information on the Governor’s Smart Communities Awards or the Growth Management Act, visit www.commerce.wa.gov/growth.

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