Code Amendments

Code Interpretations

The Land Use Development Code, Title 14 of the Snohomish Municipal Code (SMC), authorizes the Planning Director to interpret the code where it is unclear or contradictory.  The Director is also authorized to determine whether a land use is allowed when that land use isn't specifically listed in any land use table.

The Director must issue a written interpretation to formalize that determination in order to establish a clear precedent.  This authority and relevant rules for code interpretations are found in SMC 14.05.050 and SMC 14.207.060.


The land use “preschools” is not included in any of the Land Use Development Code’s land use tables.  Therefore, pursuant to SMC 14.207.060, the Planning Director has issued a code interpretation to fill this gap in the code.  

In analyzing the issue as to whether preschools should be added to the land use tables and allowed in certain zones the interpretation answers four questions:

  • What is the definition of preschool?
  • Is a preschool different than a childcare facility?
  • Do preschools have the same or similar land use impacts as elementary schools?
  • If they do, should they be allowed in the same land use designation areas and regulated in the same way as elementary schools?

The Director determined preschools are different from childcare in that their primary purpose is to provide academic learning to younger children while a childcare’s primary purpose is to provide supervised play and socializing services to younger children. The new definition addresses this difference and also requires preschools to have a schedule similar to public schools meaning, among other things, they are closed in the summer and on school holidays.

The interpretation then addresses whether preschools have the same or similar land use impacts as do elementary schools.  The Director concluded they do and that if anything the impacts are likely to be less because preschools typically serve fewer students and few facilities than do elementary schools.

Citing the above conclusions, the code interpretation then states that preschools should be an allowed land use and regulated in the same way as elementary schools.

Download the full code interpretation

Previous Interpretations

Code Amendments

The Planning Department is responsible for amending and updating the City's land development regulations.  Development regulations in the Snohomish Municipal Code are found within Title 14.

Development regulations are intended to implement and be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan goals and policies.  Proposed amendments to the development code are first considered at a public hearing by the Planning Commission, which makes a recommendation to the City Council.  The City Council typically holds a second public hearing before taking action on a code amendment.  All development code amendments are adopted by City Council ordinance.

Amendments to the development code may be initiated by the City Council, the Planning Commission, staff, or citizens. 

Find links to our current codes on the Code Compliance page.

Special Design and Bulk Dimensional Requirements for PRDs

The purpose of Planned Residential Developments (PRDs) is to promote creativity in site layout and design for residential projects.  The special PRD regulations help preserve critical areas and create useful open space for recreation and the aesthetic enjoyment of residents.  They allow developers to use innovative methods – such as providing for choices in the layout of streets and other public improvements – that are not available under conventional land use regulations.

The development regulations for PRDs are codified in Chapter 14.220, Snohomish Municipal Code (SMC).

SMC 14.220.100 provides for the special design and bulk dimensional requirements for PRDs, such as setbacks.  Currently, this section has ambiguous language and some provisions which make administering the code difficult.  The proposed code amendments are intended to clear up the ambiguities and to delete the problematic provisions.


  • In Subsection A language is added to clarify that density regulations are determined by the underlying land use designation area.
  • Subsection C replaces the undefined and uncommon reference to a building line with “front setback line” which is a common term in all land use codes.
  • Subsection D is modified for two reasons:
    1. To provide clarity by using consistent language when referring to setback areas as building setback areas and not as yard areas which is an imprecise term; and
    2. To remove two provisions that add unnecessary complexity to the code in one instance and an unfair rule in another.

The unnecessary complexity is the allowance for reduced setbacks.  This becomes especially problematic during the construction phase when lots in a PRD have inconsistent setbacks.

The unfair provision is the requirement that structures must be at least 10 feet from a structure on an adjacent lot.  This can result in the last lots being developed having greater setback requirements, that could be burdensome, than the other lots in the PRD.

Click here to review the proposed changes to SMC 14.220.100.

If you have questions or comments please contact Planning Director Glen Pickus at 360-282-3173 or via email.