The biennial King County Budget adopted this month by the Metropolitan King County Council establishes the new King County Department of Local Services, as proposed by Executive Dow Constantine. Among the benefits that local residents can hope to see in 2019-2020 are:
Improved coordination of local services
For the first time ever, residents will have one department devoted exclusively to coordinate the services they receive from the County. The Director of the new Department of Local Services will have the ability to create partnerships with all County agencies to improve the responsiveness of services in unincorporated areas, and more effectively track and follow up on the delivery of those services.
Maintaining our roads network
Road Services budget focuses on safety while maintaining 1,500 miles of roadway and 182 bridges in the unincorporated areas that are owned and managed by King County. For 2019-2020, some key programs and projects include:
- Embarking on a new bridge safety program to address the most critical bridge replacement needs. In 2019-2020, Roads staff will begin designing replacements for five aging County bridges that have structural and functional deficiencies and are currently load restricted for certain types of trucks.
- Provide focused sidewalk repairs through a pilot program in the unincorporated, urban North Highline and West Hill/Skyway communities.
- Initiating a new culvert replacement and fish passage program in collaboration with the King County Water and Land Resources Division. This program is part of King County Executive Dow Constantine’s broader Clean Water and Healthy Habitat agenda.
- Converting the popular Road Rangers pilot program to an ongoing effort. This program provides dedicated road maintenance crews to respond nimbly to smaller scale service requests from the community, like pothole repair, without disrupting regular planned road maintenance work.
Land use planning for the built environment
The Division of Permitting, now located within the new department, is preparing sub‐area plans for each of the thirteen Community Services Areas and urban communities in unincorporated King County, informed through robust public engagement. Each unique, sub-area plan will serve as a framework for future development over the next 20 years — from the design and appearance of commercial districts to housing density, infill development, building heights, and zoning. One plan will be produced per year. The first two sub-area plans to be developed are for the communities of Skyway-West Hill and North Highline. The Skyway-West Hill plan is already underway.
Improving the Permitting Process
The Division of Permitting will continue its focus on the customer experience by:
- Dedicating more staff time to respond to customer inquiries.
- Increasing the use of on-line tools for permit applications and plan review.
- Streamlining the permitting requirements for already built construction (ABC); and
- Coordinating with other King County permitting agencies.
These efforts will improve the customer experience, reduce approval times and enhance transparency. The goal is to streamline the permitting experience for unincorporated King County residents.
Economic development to build stronger communities
Funding to hire an economic development coordinator has been added. This new position will be empowered to develop economic activity in unincorporated King County toward broadening opportunities, increasing the sales and property tax base consistent with the Comprehensive Plan, and helping to achieve equity and social justice for all residents. For 2019-2020, the Department will create a long term strategic approach to economic development in unincorporated areas by:
- Supporting small businesses, start-ups, and “Main Street” business improvement districts by providing small grants or helping identify and advocate for other funding streams such as: the Real Estate Excise Tax, tourism funding, and state and federal grants.
- Providing technical assistances to the marketing plans of local chambers of commerce and business groups such as “Buy Local” or “Savor Snoqualmie,” and identifying other resources such as the Port of Seattle’s Economic Development Grants.
- Coordinating activities among programs already providing economic development services for agriculture and forestry in the rural area.
- Partnering with economic development organizations throughout the county such as the Greater Seattle Partners and the Port of Seattle, and working through the sub-area planning program to identify the economic development impact of proposed land use changes, starting in 2019-2020 with the Skyway-West Hill and North Highline communities.