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Major Institutions and Schools
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Major Institution Citizen Advisory Committee

General Background

Seattle’s hospitals, universities and colleges are important assets of the region and Seattle therefore allows their development to exceed many of the zoning standards that would apply to nearby development.  Unique zoning rules are crafted for each major institution through the adoption of a Major Institution Master Plan that: 1) identifies a boundary (Major Institution Overlay District) within which the revised rules applies; and 2) identifies the specific rules that will apply to development within this boundary.  The objectives of the plan are to balance the needs of major institution development with the need to preserve adjacent neighborhoods.  Overlay districts have been established for thirteen major medical and educational institutions in Seattle (see the sidebar to the left).

Major Institution Master Plan

The process by which a major institution applies for and develops a master plan is established by the Seattle Land Use Code Section 23.69.032.  Each plan describes the zoning rules that will apply to the institution, identifies a long-range plan for the development of the institution’s property, and a transportation management plan that is intended to reduce single occupant vehicle use.

Master plans are developed when the overlay district is established and revised or amended at various times.  Revisions generally occur when:

  1. The major institution seeks to expand its boundaries or change the development standards established under its plan to be less restrictive than in the plan;

  2. A proposed structure would exceed development standards of the underlying zone and is not permitted under any of the provisions of an existing plan;

  3. More than four residential units or two residential buildings within the overlay district are proposed for demolition, or a change to non-residential use; or

  4. Once the total square feet of development authority granted under the plan has been used and the institution proposes any additional development.

Many institutions also develop new plans when their own plans change.

Please click here for a link to the Seattle Municipal Code for more detailed information on the major institution master plans.

Master Plan Process

Both the development of the plan and monitoring of development under adopted plans are collaborative efforts involving the major institution, the City and the community. The community is represented by a formally appointed committee that participates both in the development of the plans and the monitoring of subsequent development.   When this committee is involved in the development of a new plan it is called a Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC).  Once a plan has been adopted, this becomes a Standing Citizens Advisory Committee (SAC)

The Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC)

As part of the process of preparing a master plan, a citizens advisory committee (CAC) is formed. The CAC is composed of 6 to 12 members (with alternates sometimes appointed). CAC members represent the interests of the institution, the surrounding neighborhood, and the City of Seattle.  The City Council officially appoints the CAC, which is staffed by the Department of Neighborhoods.

The CAC participates directly in the development of the institution's master plan from the plan’s inception.  The role of the CAC is to advise both the institution and City concerning the impact of the development proposed by the major institution on the neighborhood. The CAC may recommend changes to the plan or possible mitigation of impacts to maintain the health and livability of the surrounding communities.  The CAC meets regularly with the institution and the City to discuss the master plan and resolve differences. The CAC submits comments throughout the process to the institution and the Department of Planning and Development (DPD).  The CAC’s final recommendation is provided to the City of Seattle Hearing Examiner and City Council.

The CAC presents its recommendations to the Hearing Examiner at a public hearing. The Hearing Examiner considers all of the information presented, including the recommendations of the CAC, and issues a recommendation to the Seattle City Council, which adopts a final plan based upon the recommendations of the Hearing Examiner. The CAC may be asked to present information to the City Council at its meetings.

Standing Advisory Committee (SAC)

The process for developing and adopting a master plan generally lasts two years.  After adoption of the Master Plan, the CAC is reformed as a SAC.  The role of the SAC is to monitor compliance with the provisions of the adopted master plan.  The SAC meets as needed, but no less than annually, to:

  1. Review an annual report from the institution on its development;

  2. Review and comment on progress under the transportation management plan;

  3. Review requests for amendments to the plan and recommend whether the amendment is a major or minor issue and any conditions that should be attached to the granting of an amendment; and

  4. Provide comments on any project developed under the provisions of the adopted plan that requires a Master Use Permit (MUP), supplemental environmental review or is subject to any conditional use.

Membership on the SAC is from the same groups as the CAC, with members serving two year renewable terms.  The SAC continues until such time as the institution decides to develop a new plan.

Please click here for a link to the Seattle Municipal Code for more detailed information on the major institution master plans.

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