Rezoning is a mechanism to modify the Official Zoning Map of Snohomish County on the parcel level. Rezones usually serve to increase the development potential of properties by changing permitted uses and the allowable scale of development. However, in rare instances, a rezone may achieve the opposite by reducing potential development. Rezones can be initiated by property owners, the Department of Planning and Development Services (PDS), the County Council,and the Planning Commission. Property owners have two avenues to initiate a rezone request — either as a Type 2 land use application (quasi-judicial) rezone or a legislative rezone.
Property owners naturally have an interest in getting the best value out of their property. In many instances, properties are not zoned to the highest uses and intensity as envisioned by the Snohomish County Comprehensive Plan. Rezoning a site may be economically advantageous to the individual property owner while also helping to realize the goals of the Comprehensive Plan.
Corresponding Zones to Comprehensive Plan Land Use Designations
|Comprehensive Plan Land Use Designation||Implementing Zones|
|Urban Medium Density Residential (UMDR)||Low Density Multiple Residential (LDMR)|
Waterfront Beach (WFB)
Mobile Home Park (MHP)
|Urban High Density Residential (UHDR)||Multiple Residential (MR)|
Low Density Multiple Residential (LDMR)
Mobile Home Park (MHP)
|For a full table of corresponding zoning and Comprehensive Plan Land Use designations, see the topic page.|
Consider a scenario in which a 1-acre property is located within the Urban Growth and zoned residential. The property is currently zoned as R-7,200 with a Comprehensive Plan Land Use Designation of UHDR. Under the UHDR land use designation, a variety of implementing zoning types are permitted, including: MHP, LDMR, and MR — MR being the most intense zoning type of these. If maximum development potential is a goal of the property owner, it would likely be in their interest to rezone from R-7,200 to MR to make best use of the land. R-7,200 zoning would only permit up to 6 dwelling units while the MR zoning would allow up to 22 dwelling units — a difference of 16 dwelling units on the same site.
The scenario described is not merely theoretical, it is real. The image on the right serves to confirm the scenario with dozens of parcels zoned R-7,200, but holding a Comprehensive Plan Land Use Designation of UHDR.
Determine If You Can Rezone
Conducting research on potential rezones is a fairly straightforward process for most property owners. The County has a number of resources available to help.
Step 1. Determine the current zoning and Future Land Use Designation(s) of property. The County's interactive Permit, Planning, and Zoning Map visually depicts both the zoning and Comprehensive Plan Future Land Use Designations throughout the county. Individual parcels are viewable in the interactive map to provide site-level context. Alternatively, prospective applicants could consult the Official Zoning Map and Future Land Use Map on file with PDS or as a static map online.
Step 2. Consult the Land Use Element (PDF) of the Comprehensive Plan. LU-89 through LU-98 describe the appropriate implementing zones and rezone conditions for each Future Land Use Designation type. If the Future Land Use Designation of a property permits a higher intensity zoning type, then a rezone is likely a viable option.
Step 3. Consult the development code for site-specific requirements (SCC 30.31A-SCC 30.31F). Some zoning types have very specific criteria for rezoning. An example is Business Park (BP), which requires at least 4 acres of contiguous land under unified control with submission of a preliminary development plan in compliance with BP zoning regulations at the time of a rezone proposal.
Step 4. Choose which rezone process to pursue. Any rezone that is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and County code may proceed through the quasi-judicial rezone process. Rezones that may not be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan must be proposed through the docket, a legislative rezone process.
When a rezone (SCC 30.42A) is requested as a Type 2 land use application (quasi-judicial process), the applicant must ensure that:
- The proposed rezone is consistent with Comprehensive Plan;
- Bears a substantial relationship to the public health, safety, and general welfare; and
- Meets the minimum requirements of 30.31A through 30.31F, if applicable.
Proposed rezones are reviewed by PDS staff to determine if the application is sufficient and meets County code requirements. As a Type 2 land use application, public notice is required before a Department recommendation is rendered. Neighbors receive mailed notices of the project while the general public receives notification through published notices in the newspaper and posted onsite. Any member of the public may comment on the proposal, become a party-of-record, and/or appeal a decision. After a 14-day comment period, PDS staff may render their recommendation on the proposal and transmit it to the Snohomish County Hearing Examiner.
The Hearing Examiner is required to hold an open record public hearing on proposed rezones. The Hearing Examiner will accept public testimony relevant to the rezone application and may consider issues presented in final decision-making. The Hearing Examiner may approve, approve with conditions, remand for further review, or deny a rezone request.
Rezone proposals beyond the scope of a quasi-judicial rezone may be appropriate as a request via the docketing process (SCC 30.74). The docking process allows prospective applicants to propose Comprehensive Plan Future Land Use Map changes with concurrent rezone map amendments. These proposals are vetted by PDS, the Planning Commission, and ultimately the County Council should the proposals be entertained for possible approval. Additional details are provided in the Docketing Process (PDF) bulletin (Bulletin #5). Prospective applicants will need to adequately address the County code requirements for docket requests and complete the Docket Application (PDF).