Snohomish County government buildings in Everett. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

Snohomish County government buildings in Everett. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

Snohomish County extends development approval deadlines

The County Council also passed a hiring freeze on Monday to offset an expected revenue shortfall.

EVERETT — Snohomish County took steps Monday to provide relief for the idled construction industry and to cut government spending during the coronavirus pandemic.

The County Council voted unanimously to extend expiration dates for development applications, approvals and permits by 120 days.

The four-month extension applies to development clearances that hadn’t yet expired as of March 23, when Gov. Jay Inslee issued a stay-home order that put many construction projects on hold. It covers more than two dozen types of approvals, including rezonings, variances, building permits, site plans, subdivisions and conditional permits.

The construction industry faces a slew of challenges in the pandemic’s wake that will delay projects, says the new county ordinance. Hiring workers will take more time. A backlog of county and state inspections that has accumulated during the shutdown is likely to affect timelines. And supply chain disruptions will probably continue, making equipment and construction materials needed to get jobs done harder to find.

“It is pretty clear this ‘pandemic’ and the resulting stoppage of construction could be catastrophic for this building industry,” Merle Ash, a land-use consultant who serves on the county planning commission, said in an April 16 email to the council, urging adoption of an extension. “Worse, it will just add to the cost of housing, further disrupting the quest for attainable or affordable homes.”

The council, bracing for a multimillion-dollar revenue shortfall due to the public health crisis, also passed a 60-day hiring freeze covering all county departments. The move could save the county $350,000 to $600,000 a month, county staff have estimated.

Council Vice Chair Stephanie Wright cast the lone “no” vote after advocating for a hiring freeze that would last through the end of the year and include exceptions for the Sheriff’s Office and Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

The county relies on sales tax for roughly $70 million of the $260 million general fund budget, but that money is expected to be much less this year due to the economic downturn brought on by COVID-19.

County revenue forecasters have offered varying estimates of the resulting shortfall, with the caveat that better numbers won’t be available until the county gets last month’s sales tax figures, in early May. One estimate, prepared on the assumption that business would return to normal by May, pegged the shortfall at nearly $17 million. A past county news release said that the county’s general fund budget may need to be slashed by 10% or more to offset the financial blows.

The hiring freeze is the first step in a plan to curb spending, county staff told the council on Monday.

Other measures are likely to include restrictions on travel, training and overtime. County staff plan to apply for grants that would provide financial relief. Officials might also delay or cancel planned studies or projects.

The county is also likely to dig into a fund balance left over from past years, which was almost $50 million at the end of last year, said county Finance Director Nathan Kennedy.

Layoffs will be “a last resort,” said legislative analyst Jim Martin.

Rachel Riley: 425-339-3465; rriley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @rachel_m_riley.

Talk to us

More in Local News

A resident reported finding a dead Asian giant hornet near Marysville on June 4. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
Dead ‘murder hornet’ found in Marysville, a first for county

It could be from a previous season, scientists say, because males don’t typically emerge this early.

Jeff Thoreson does a cheer with his second grade class before the start of their kickball game on his last in-person day of school on Thursday, June 17, 2021 in Snohomish, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Snohomish teacher hit the right notes in memorable career

Jeff Thoreson will retire this month after molding minds at Riverview Elementary School for 41 years.

FILE - In this Dec. 16, 2020, file photo, Staff Sgt. Travis Snyder, left, receives the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine given at Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, south of Seattle. Nurse Jose Picart, right, administered the shot. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday, June 17, 2021, announced a new COVID-19 vaccine incentive lottery for the state's military, family members and veterans because the federal government wasn't sharing individual vaccine status of those groups with the state and there were concerns they would be left out of a previously announced lottery. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
New vaccine lottery announced for military in Washington

Gov. Inslee said there were concerns they would be left out of a previously announced lottery.

Police: After short chase in Marysville, man dies by suicide

Officers responded to a domestic violence call. The suspect reportedly shot himself at the end of a chase.

The Everett Police Department has asked the City Council to keep its nine Stay Out of Drug Areas, zones where people arrested for drug crimes are not allowed. (City of Everett)
Everett police ask council to renew 9 drug enforcement areas

SODAs are a legal tool that prohibits people arrested for drug crimes from entering certain areas.

Sequoia High graduates move their tassels from one side to the other at the end of the graduation ceremony on Thursday, June 17, 2021 in Everett, Washington. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Gallery: Sequoia High Graduation

Sequoia High School graduates receive their diplomas

Woman killed in hit-and-run south of Everett is identified

Detectives have been searching for the vehicle that struck Katherine Mueller, 31, of Snohomish.

Pallet communities are groups of tiny homes for unhoused people. Here, a worker installs weatherstripping on a pallet shelter at Pallet in Everett in January 2020. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)
Tiny home community is proposed at a Marysville church

The Pallet shelter community would provide transitional housing to eight people. Neighbors have questions.

In Edmonds, ‘small cell’ deployment permit becomes a big deal

The City Council has allowed new cellular equipment under an ordinance that regulates conditions.

Most Read