State Legislature Works to Close “Vesting” Loophole That Could Benefit Developers

Vesting refers to the ability of a land owner to lock in (“vest”) the right to develop property consistent with existing zoning laws and other development regulations, so that the development is not subject to subsequent changes in zoning or development laws.

Washington, however, has an approach to vesting that allows irresponsible developers to surprise communities and circumvent the community’s vision for their future.

There are basically three points in time that different states use to determine vesting rights. In most (about 30) states, a landowner vests when they have obtained approval for the project and taken substantial steps to develop the property. In most of the remaining states, landowners vest when they actually obtain a permit.

Washington is in the minority in allowing vesting to occur so early in the process – all a developer need do is apply for certain permits.

While developers and others should be assured a reasonable level of certainty in the rules after investing substantial sums in the development process, Washington’s liberal vesting rules create major loopholes for irresponsible developers seeking to sidestep community standards.

Representatives Simpson (D-47th Legislative District) and Williams (D-22nd Legislative District) have sponsored HB 1463. Companion bill SB 5507 has been introduced by a number of Senators. The effect of these bills will bring Washington’s vesting rules up the standard the majority of states are using and close this loophole that gives developers an easy way around new protections for critical areas, farmland, and rural communities.

Click on the links above to read the bills, track their progress and tell your elected representatives where you stand on the issue of property vesting rules in Washington state.

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