2019 Governor's Smart Communities Award Winners Announced

Governor Jay Inslee has announced the 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 focuses 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, health future. These are some of the key attributes that give Washington its unique sense of place and quality of life.”

Tukwila Village. “This is the definition of a successful Public Private Partnership!”-Judge’s comment. The Tukwila Village project is a new multicultural and multigenerational 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 TVCDA is to improve the social welfare of the local community and residents of Tukwila Village by promoting arts, economic development, education, health, and community building.

Rapid Implementation of Bellingham’s Bicycle Master Plan. Bellingham’s rapid implementation of the 2014 Bicycle Master Plan has created more citywide bicycle connectivity than in any other city of a similar size in Washington. In the five years since adoption, the Bellingham Public Works has completed and funded over 111, or 52%, 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 opportunistic efforts to partner with other agencies and jurisdictions, as well a private development, to maximize the amount of bicycle connectivity that is funded and constructed each year.

Strategic Economic Initiative (SEI). “This strategic process demonstrated innovative, thorough, and meaningful public participation. This was a smart use of household surveys for targeted community outreach!”-Judge’s comment. The SEI identified 6 Strategic Objectives including 43 specific action tasks, lead participants, schedules, and performance measures to achieve them. Because of the 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 programming.

 Watershed Protection and Land Use Planning (WPLUP) “Their approach to stormwater planning is impressive!” – 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, and an example of how a local jurisdiction can implement the Department of Commerce’s Building Cities in the Rain guidance.

Colville Downtown Vitalization Plan—Colville Together. The City of Colville and the Tri-County Economic Development District (TEDD), and the Main Street Partnership worked together to transform Downtown Colville. The strong design visions of the Plan was assisted by a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) from 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”, and a very successful hog dog vendor that can be found attracting tourist 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!”-Judge’s comment.

Transit Road Trip Project. The Road Trip project was a two-year program combining technical analysis and unprecedented public engagement to involve residents in transportation solutions. It was launched by the multi-jurisdictional Authority Board 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 increases the volume 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 to gaining community support for raising taxes to support local growth management needs.” –Judge’s comment.

Housing Element-2018. The County studied housing conditions and reviewed existing policies with the goal of updating the Housing Element, 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. Solutions were innovative out of necessity. Island County is characterized by very small UGAs and includes an entirely separate island with no UGAs. The results provided unprecedented public engagement from all areas of the County. The Housing Element brought together and unified very divergent opinions in the County and became a tool that engaged the community, empowered immediate action, and cultivated a greater understanding of the Growth Management Act (GMA).

Rural Lands Regulatory Updates. “Excellent example of how to actually protect resource lands!!”-Judge’s comment. The Island County rural lands regulatory updates were prepared by the County in response to overwhelming public input provided in the recent Comprehensive Plan (2016) update. Community responses called for regulations that found the balance between economic development, long-term commercial viability of resource lands, impacts to surrounding property owners, and rural character. The County made smart choices and did an excellent job of 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.

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 with parks, accessible and traversable by all travel modes, and offers a rich quality of life and strong economy. Lakewood’s robust public outreach and program were excellent for the community members, the decision-makers involved in the planning process.

City of Prosser Comprehensive Plan. The rewrite of the City’s Comprehensive Plan was a large undertaking, not only to satisfy the periodic update, but also to implement new approaches to old problems. Prosser has taken bold steps to addressing housing needs, new approaches to inclusionary housing, and innovative student engagement in the planning process. The GSCA 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 incentivizing policies for housing.”

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 of Tacoma partnered with other agencies, organizations and community members to develop a comprehensive Affordable Housing Action Strategy (AHAS). The AHAS – an equitable response to Tacoma’s Caccelerating housing market, increased displacement pressure, and need for quality, affordable housing – was informed by available data, extensive community engagement, and input from a core stakeholder group of subject matter experts.

Vancouver Housing Strategy. “The 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.” –Judge’s comment. 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 both affordable and market-rate housing; 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.

Blue Mountain Region Trails Plan. 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. The Plan stimulates economic development, encourages walking, biking, and hiking; provides more access to outdoor recreation; and increases the overall quality of life for the 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!”-Judge’s comment.