Governor’s 2024 Smart Communities Awards nominations now open

Annual awards recognize outstanding work in community planning and development

Olympia, Wash. — The Washington State Department of Commerce has opened nominations for the 18th annual Governor’s Smart Communities Awards, a program that recognizes outstanding work by local governments and their partners on long-term community planning and development.

Nominations feature the best our state has to offer in collaborative community development and local comprehensive planning. Community leaders look to this award program to showcase their accomplishments and to learn from other stellar examples for achieving their own local planning goals.

Photo of governor Inslee and Spokane leaders for smart communities award presentation

Photo Courtesy of the Governor’s office: Gov. Inslee congratulates the city of Spokane on winning the 2023 Smart Housing Award – Jump Starting More Housing Opportunities – City of Spokane, Washington (

Examples of past winners include the 2023 Smart Housing award winner, the city of Spokane. Their Building Opportunities and Choices for All (BOCA) program modified zoning and neighborhoods allowing for up to four dwellings on a residential lot. This expanded housing choices and was a precursor to prepare for the state middle housing law implemented last year, putting Spokane ahead of the curve in promoting infill development and more affordable housing.

“The city of Spokane is a leading example for how communities can respond to the housing crisis,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “Zoning for greater housing density lets more residents put down roots and contribute to our communities. We celebrate Spokane’s accomplishment as proof more communities can go big on housing.”

Photo of Waitsburg city leaders accepting Gov Smart Communities Award for 2023

Ben Serr, Commerce Eastern Regional Manager, presents the 2023 Smart Project award to city of Waitsburg Mayor Martin Dunn

In another illustration of local planning excellence, the city of Waitsburg replaced thousands of feet of aging sewer lines to connect residents to their new wastewater treatment plant. With strong community outreach, multiple funding sources and valuable wastewater expertise, Waitsburg completed the largest sewer project in the city’s history.

Smart Projects, smart planning and strong community engagement are all hallmarks of previous Governor’s Smart Community Award winners.

Read more about these projects and other past award winners and watch a video.

The 2024 Nominations are available across six categories:

  1. Smart Vision Award for a comprehensive plan, subarea plan or countywide planning policies. Recognizing the successful achievement of a county, city, or town plan or policy for forming its local community vision, through an amendment to the comprehensive plan, subarea plan, or countywide planning policies, including robust community engagement and outreach.
  2. Smart Projects Award for Project implementing a Comprehensive Plan. Recognizing the successful achievement of a governmental project with implementing a local county, city, or town’s comprehensive plan. These may include, but are not limited to, adoption of implementing development regulations, infrastructure projects, community facilities, community-driven art installations, design implements, or parks.
  3. Smart Partnership Award for a joint public project that implements a comprehensive plan.
    Successful applicants will demonstrate the joint implementation of a local county, city or town’s comprehensive plan. These may include, but are not limited to, regional open space network plans, government-to-government long-term planning strategies, region-benefitting infrastructure projects, public/private partnerships.
  4. Smart Housing Strategies Award for creative plans, policies, programs and/or actions. Successful applicants will demonstrate innovation and creative strategies to address housing affordability through plans, policies, programs, development regulations and/or actions. For example, subarea plans that increase housing capacity, new housing element, policies with particular attention towards affordability, equity and displacement.
  1. Smart Equity Strategies Award for plans, policies, programs and/or actions addressing impacts to community equity. Successful applicants will demonstrate the use of planning tools or practices that create stronger communities for everyone by addressing disparate impacts and protecting vulnerable populations. Examples include, but are not limited to, plans, policies or implementation programs that mitigate inequitable land use policies and impacts or improve existing inequities such as displacement, gentrification, negative environmental health outcomes, or exclusionary zoning. Applicants should demonstrate equitable outcomes that resulted, such as increased housing stability for low-income residents or decreased exposure to harmful environmental conditions.
  1. Smart Climate Change Strategies Award for Plans, Policies, Programs and/or Actions Addressing Community Climate Impacts. Successful applicants will demonstrate innovation and creative strategies to address local-issues driven by a rapidly changing climate, such as a community with extreme temperature events, flooding, or fire hazards. This award recognizes that communities may address various climate challenges based on a their unique context and the different tools and strategies that they may deploy to mitigate them, such as wildfire prevention east of the cascades, or a coastal community where flooding and storm effects are the most prominent threat.

Nominations are open through May 15, 2024. Please visit the Commerce webpage for more information and nomination forms, and to learn about how Commerce supports communities in growth management planning.


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