FROM THE PRESIDENT'S DESK
Joe Tovar, FAICP
Whew! Bagfulls of news this month. Your Chapter Board had a very successful quarterly meeting at SeaTac at the end of March. We were able to move through the action items in just over 90 minutes, which is very impressive given that the norm for years has been to spend up to four hours to cover the entire agenda. This breakthrough freed us up to spend most of the afternoon kicking off an update of the Chapter’s Strategic Plan, which when you think about it, is one of the most important and primary duties of any board of directors; figuring out where we want to steer the ship and how to get there. Our Chapter Administrators, Ann MacFarlane and Andrew Estep led the Board through some essential initial steps, with more to follow up in the next quarterly meeting
The thorough yet concise reports distributed by committee chairs prior to the meeting allowed us to hit the ground running. Actually, since we started with a working lunch, we hit the ground eating. Among the decisions we reached were to rename the Chapter Newsletter “The Washington Planner” effective immediately, (although we won’t change the mast-head until the website overhaul occurs in a few months); to authorize reprinting of the Chapter’s membership brochure using the new Chapter logo and color scheme (thanks to Anna Nelson for riding herd on the design work with National); to have the Community Planning Assistance Team work with the legislative committee to promote legislation to forge (and fund with state dollars) a collaborative partnership between APA, students at EWU and UW, and the many small communities needing planning help (thanks to Kristian Kofoed and Paula Reeves for designing this program); and to adopt a recommended process for identifying, prioritizing and advancing legislation in future sessions (special thanks to Ivan Miller for heading up the leg committee subcommittee to flesh this out).
Chapter lobbyist Mike Shaw was present to discuss the legislation that had passed this session. By all reports, Washington APA is more well-known and regarded than ever by legislators and other stakeholders in Olympia. For example, ESSB 6580, the “Local Solutions to Climate Change” bill specifically directed that a group of stakeholders be created to advise the legislature on further legislation before the 2009 session. The bill specifically names a need for representation by “an association of local government planners.” That’s us! I am invoking executive privilege to personally take our Chapter’s chair at the table, but will be drawing on the input and review of both our established leg committee and our newly launched Sustainability Committee. The latter committee is now shaping its charter, objectives, schedule, etc., so this is a good time for interested Chapter members to get in on that ground floor. It you are interested in getting involved, contact any of the three co-chairs (Keith Maw email@example.com; Jill Sterrett firstname.lastname@example.org; or Anindita Mitra email@example.com.
The Chapter legislative committee has since scheduled its post-session debriefing and plan for work between now at next session. That meeting will be held on Friday, May 9th from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm at Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) office in downtown Seattle. Box lunches will be available for a working lunch. If you are interested in the agenda and menu (must work for food!) contact Esther Larsen at ELarsen@spokanecounty.org.
Another topic at the March Board meeting was the sharing of Chapter revenues to support Section activities. We began a general discussion, identifying ideas and concerns, but did not reach conclusions. It is wise to discuss this issue well in advance of the budgeting process for 2009. It’s also wise to see how the new activities of the continuing education committee, the sections, and the other standing committees operate this year, now in the era of certification maintenance. Treasurer Derek Chisholm agreed to convene a conference call with the section presidents to further explore several funding alternatives prior to returning with a report and recommendation at a future board meeting. The other big variable budget wise is obviously this fall’s annual conference.
What a great segue! I am writing this message while sitting at the Spokane airport after an afternoon at the Davenport Hotel reviewing the draft session submittals with members of the program committee (Linda Bentley, Latisha Hill, Nancy Eklund, Sharon Wright, Nancy Bird, and – participating by phone – Alexandra Bilderback and Kevin Freibott.) The quality of sessions this year is going to be remarkable. We had a very broad and deep response to our call for sessions, and it was a real challenge to cull down the almost 80 submittals to 40 breakouts, two plenary sessions and a half dozen mobile workshops. As befits the conference theme of Plan It for our Planet many of the sessions deal with sustainability, climate change, and environmental issues, however, the range of topics is far beyond that. We have a great balance of rural/urban, eastside/Westside/Idaho-side, and strong inputs from students, urban designers, transportation and tribal planners, and sessions on professional skills building. I am confident that you will be very favorably impressed by the content and value of this year’s Chapter annual conference. Be sure you block October 13-15 and husband your departmental/firm budgets for a great time in Spokane.
I continue to be impressed by the way that our efforts at outreach have reaped an increased awareness of APA Washington, our programs, and the value of our work. Our Chapter is being actively sought out to participate in major public policy discussions. A prime example is the “Reality Check” exercise scheduled for late April at the University of Washington, co-sponsored by the Urban Land Institute, the Puget Sound Regional Council, the Cascade Land Conservancy, and others. Vice President Scott Greenberg will represent APA Washington at this invitation-only event to provide an informed perspective. Another example is a recent panel sponsored by the Washington Association of Realtors on the Cost of Regulation. Joining noted UW economics professor Theo Eicher on the panel was Mike McCormick, a member of the Chapter’s recently empaneled committee on this subject. Mike has been working with committee co-chairs Rose Curran and Mike Hubner, and others, to provide some points and counter-points on the topic. Rose informs me that the committee is making progress on several “deliverables” to be shared with Chapter members, including a panel at this year’s Annual Conference in Spokane.
The next meeting of the Chapter Board will take place on Friday, June 27 in Vancouver. Thanks to Southwest Section President Laura Hudson for arranging our meeting venue at a park overlooking the Columbia River. As far as I know, this will be the first time the Chapter Board has met in that part of the state – so this will be an opportunity for curious Chapter members from the greater Clark county area to join us for a working lunch to see their Board in action. It will also be the first Board meeting for folks I have just appointed to fill some vacancies: Michael Cardwell will fill the Tribal Planners chair, Ken Kuhn will represent the Planning Association of Washington, and Rich Carson is the new APA Washington representative on the editorial board of Western Planner.
That is all for this month. In next month’s message, I’ll update you on many of these items and report on the goings on in Las Vegas. Contrary to the slogan, not everything that happens in Vegas will stay in Vegas.
The APA Washington Communications Committee met via conference call in early March to discuss the website redesign and monthly newsletter. Our first agenda item was the finalizing of a request for proposals (RFP) for a redesign of the Chapter’s website. The RFP generated four proposals and a firm has been hired to refresh the website and coordinate its look with the APA’s branding guidelines.
The second agenda item was discussion and recommendation to the Chapter Board on a new name for this newsletter. The Committee recommended and the Board unanimously approved renaming Planning Northwest to The Washington Planner. The Committee felt that the name was simple, descriptive and professional. You’ll see this change occur when our newsletter is redesigned to be consistent with the redesigned website.
Other names the Committee considered included: The Evergreen Planner, Washington APA Monthly, Washington Planning Bulletin, Washington Planner News, APA Washington News, and Planning Washington. These names were not recommended for a variety of reasons.
Future Committee meetings will continue to focus on the newsletter, as well as participating in the website and newsletter redesign project, and overall communications strategies for the Chapter. Finally, we will be recommending Committee co-chairpersons to the Chapter President for appointment in May.
For more information about the APA Washington Communications Committee, please contact Chapter Vice-President Scott Greenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-248-5519.
We are in need of an APA/PAW Joint Awards Committee co-chair. Please contact chapter president Joe Tovar, email@example.com, if you are interested.
NOISE COMPATIBLE PLANNING
Tim Sexton, WSDOT
Noise Compatible Planning (NCP) is an attempt to reduce the undesirable effects of highway traffic noise on nearby residents. Increasing development around state highways and local roads, coupled with increasing traffic volumes, has increased traffic noise levels and public awareness about traffic noise. To address the effects of traffic noise, Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has built over 11 miles of concrete noise barriers and earthen noise berms since 2005 alone. While WSDOT plans to continue using barriers and berms as noise abatement, the agency is beginning to expand the scope of its efforts to more proactively address traffic noise issues. Part of this new approach involves Noise Compatible Planning (NCP).
What is the goal of NCP?
The fundamental goal of NCP is to reduce conflicts between areas of high traffic noise and places where lower noise levels are valued, or “noise sensitive” land uses. Noise sensitive land uses include homes, schools, and places of worship. In addition to being annoying, studies have shown that exposure to traffic noise can lower residential property values and have negative health effects. Land use considered less noise sensitive often includes commercial uses where visibility and access are valued, such as mini-storage and big-box retail.
How does NCP work?
NCP tools, such as Noise Overlay Zones and buffers, can be used by city and county planning departments to ensure that new development is compatible with an area’s existing and predicted future noise levels. For example, noise compatibility could mean limiting new residential use surrounding a gravel pit or adjacent to a busy highway. In more developed communities, or communities with limited area for residential development, incompatible land uses may be allowable when a developer provides abatement. In addition to more expensive forms of abatement, like noise walls, acoustic insulation, and triple-paned windows, many no/low-cost abatement options, such as clustered development and building orientation, are also available.
A number of specific NCP tools have been developed by state and local jurisdictions around the country. NCP tools can be incorporated into building codes, design standards, or as amendments to a comprehensive plan.
One example of model language for a “Traffic Noise Impact Overlay District,” or NOID:
- The purpose of these provisions is to minimize the impact of roadway traffic noise on individuals, businesses, and other activities; to prevent the loss of property value due to intrusive roadway traffic noise; to prohibit certain uses, activities, and development from being located within areas subject to projected intense roadway traffic noise.
An example of a performance based code might resemble the following:
- Traffic noise sensitive land uses will not be granted permits when a site is predicted to receive roadway traffic noise in excess of 65 decibels in ten years.
Why is WSDOT’s interested in NCP now?
WSDOT is interested in NCP because it is better to address highway noise proactively for those situations where traditional noise abatement is not possible to achieve or too costly. Not all receivers can be shielded from traffic noise through traditional mitigation strategies (noise barriers and berms). Often, it’s not possible to provide sufficient abatement to residences using a barrier. Driveway access, topography, and traffic volumes can all limit a barrier’s effectiveness. Noise barrier material costs continue to increase, especially the prices of concrete and steel. Limited and more expensive right-of-way is also affecting the constructability of noise barriers.
What is WSDOT’s role?
WSDOT’s role will be to help local planning agencies identify potential noise impact zones, assess present and future traffic noise levels, and provide information to local planners for addressing noise incompatible development. WSDOT is currently collaborating with local planners to develop a streamlined method for determining noise impact areas and incorporating that information into the local land use decisions.
To request information or provide suggestions on how NCP can work in your jurisdiction, please contact Tim Sexton, WSDOT Air Quality, Acoustics, and Energy Group, at (206) 440-4549 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last year the board approved a new chapter-only group membership opportunity.
This membership is available to planning commissions, city councils and commissions, tribal councils, and board members of non-profit organizations and other professional associations.
Up to 10 members may be included in a group membership. The group rate is $150 and is administered by the chapter office.
To obtain a group membership form or learn more about the benefits of this membership, contact Anna Nelson, AICP, Membership Committee chair, at (206) 382-9540 or anelson@GordonDerr.com.
Have a project you want to highlight for planners across the state? An issue you think more planners need information on? Planning Northwest is always looking to highlight projects and research of our members. If you are interested in having an article published feel free to contact the editor.
The deadline for the newsletter is the fifteenth of every month, preceding the publication month. Please submit all newsletter articles to email@example.com.