There’s a new effort by the Pierce County Council to simplify the county’s development rules and ease the burden on businesses in a still-sluggish economy.
The council’s second major regulatory reform proposal (2010-70, or 2010-70s once today’s amendments are included) cleared the Community Development Committee October 18 and is set to go before the full council on Nov. 16. The changes in this latest proposal are meant to eliminate duplication and make the county’s building code easier for the public and businesses to understand.
“I think making these kinds of changes will go a long way to foster a more business-friendly climate,” said Councilmember Barbara Gelman (District 5) who is sponsoring the proposal with Councilmember Terry Lee (District 7). It is part of a comprehensive code-consolidation effort led by Councilmember Shawn Bunney (District 1) that began in 2008; the council passed the first set of code amendments (2009-98s) in April of this year.
The proposal now before the council contains a number of provisions that are friendly to small business and commercial property owners, such as extending “non-conforming use rights” to two years so a landlord who loses a tenant has more time to fill a vacant building with a similar tenant without filing a time-consuming and costly appeal.
Originally adopted in 1995, the county’s development regulations grew from about 370 pages in 1999 to more than 1,500 pages in 2009. The increase was due mainly to expanded state and federal rules, the addition of the county’s 11 community plans, and case-specific regulations and those from the bi-annual amendments to the county’s 1994 comprehensive land-use plan.
The council in 2008 asked for possible ways the county could kick-start the area’s economy. The resulting Economic Development Report suggested a rigorous review of Pierce County’s development regulations to remove inconsistency and duplication.
“Whether you’re a small-business owner, a commercial developer, or a regular citizen trying to make improvements to your property,” Bunney said, “you should find that every regulation in Pierce County is efficient, practical, predictable and effective. If it isn’t, we can do without it.”
The full County Council meets Tuesdays at 3 p.m. on the 10th floor of the County-City Building (930 Tacoma Ave. S., Room 1045) in Tacoma. Meetings are broadcast live and replayed on Pierce County TV channel 22 and streamed live and archived on the channel’s Web site, www.piercecountytv.org.