As a continuing sign of the times, and evidence that we are still in recovery mode, the Washington State legislature passed Engrossed House Bill 2012, effective June 7, 2012, extending certain subdivision plat approvals. Preliminary plats approved on or before December 31, 2007, located within a city’s limits and not subject to the Shoreline Management, now expire nine years from preliminary approval. This means that the developer must finalize a plat (i.e. create the lots) within that 9-year period. And once the lots are created, the developer has seven more years to develop them—if the developer created the lots before December 31, 2014—or risk being subject to new land use rules and regulations adopted in the interim. Under prior rules when the housing market was booming, developers were subject to a 5-year period to finalize the plat, and then another 5-year period to build out the project. Essentially, instead of a total 10-year period from preliminary approval to build-out, it is now a 16-year period.

Similarly, Clark County adopted Resolution 2012-05-01 on May 1, 2012, extending all land use approvals (e.g. plats, site plan reviews, conditional use permits, planned unit developments) that were approved between June 1, 2004, and December 31, 2008, to December 31, 2014.

The significance of these extensions is that the projects remain subject to the same rules and regulations that were in effect when the projects were first approved, even if permitting authorities adopted new, more stringent regulations. While the recovery is not happening as quickly as everyone would like, these continued extensions are somewhat surprising given that many codes have been updated for policy reasons or to conform to state and local laws, and in most cases these updates will not apply to these vested projects. But the overriding reason for the extensions seems to be to prevent punishing developers whose projects may expire because of the absence of financing or other reasons beyond their control, to encourage job creation when the developments finally happen, and to avoid substantial hardship and waste of resources if developers had to restart the permitting process. It may be good news to developers that their projects have not expired, but they would likely be more pleased if they did not need the extensions in the first place and could just build.