Institutional Arrangements
Download Word Document with all Institutional Arrangements examples
Download entire framework chart

Visions Home Programs/Processes Examples Tools Examples Framework chart

Institutional Arrangements

The institutional arrangements refer to the delegation, distribution, or sharing of power related to growth management decision-making and implementation authority. On the Government-Governance scale to the left Government power represents planning as the exclusive domain of a state or regional public agency; Governance reflects relative degrees of delegated or shared power with smaller units of government and/or non profit and private entities.
Participation Characteristics Example

  • State comprehensive plan
  • Required local plans
  • Regional authorities
  • New Jersey State Planning Act
  • Washington Growth Management Act
  • Georgia Regional Transportation Authority
  • Enabled
  • State-enabled or locally-initiated cooperation
  • California Joint Exercise of Powers Act
  • King County/City of Seattle Transfer of Development Credits Program
  • Voluntary
  • Voluntary association of governments
  • Voluntary association of non-government organizations, businesses and individuals
  • Eastward Ho!
  • San Diego Association of Governments
  • Willamette Valley Livability Forum
  • Envision Utah
  • Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network
  • Regional Planning Association

  • Descriptions of examples in bold-text in the chart above:

    Washington State Growth Management Act
    Washington State's Growth Management Act (GMA), enacted by the legislature in 1991, establishes state-wide goals for protecting natural areas and channeling growth and development into urban growth areas. Within the framework provided by the GMA, local governments have many choices regarding the specific content of comprehensive plans and implementing development regulations, but they must adhere to the principles of: Comprehensiveness - demonstrate interrelationships between plan elements and implementation Concurrency - assure that infrastructure exists to accommodate new growth Consistency - ensure that plans are internally consistent and consistent with county-wide policies. GMA presents an example of combining "bottom-up" local control and decision making with a state-wide planning framework and requirements.
    The GMA applies to the entire state of Washington. However, counties with low rates of population growth are not required to develop and adopt comprehensive plans.
    Administered by:
    State, county, regional, municipal government agencies and Growth Management Hearing Boards. The primary state agency responsible for the GMA is the Office of Community Development (OCD).
    During the six-year start up and adoption phase, the state provided technical support to localities for plan preparation. The state does not currently provide funding for the county or city comprehensive planning process or implementation of the plans. State funding supports the Hearing Boards and the OCD. The state has the option (rarely used) of withholding state funds from counties and cities that refuse to develop and implement comprehensive plans consistent with GMA.
    When developed:
    The Washington State Legislature passed the Growth Management Act in 1991.
    How it works:
    The GMA defines which counties are required to plan on the basis of population and growth rate, sets timelines for development of county-wide policies and a plan development process including "early and continuous" public participation, offers technical assistance on the content and preparation of local comprehensive plans and regulations including requirements for five-year review and updates. GMA leaves to local governments the manner of and preparation of their own comprehensive plans.
    The GMA requires that counties and cities prepare 20-year comprehensive plans which identify where and how growth should occur, including establishing Urban Growth Areas to describe where growth will be encouraged and where it will be discouraged. The plans must show how the area will accommodate population projected by the state Office of Financial Management for the 20-year period. The OCD reviews proposed city and county comprehensive plans, and provides comments on compliance with state goals and advisory regulations adopted by OCD. Once the plan is adopted, the GMA gives primary authority to the localities, with state agencies required to make plans conforming with local plans. Counties and cities in the Seattle-Tacoma area also submit their plans to the Puget Sound Regional Council, where staff review the plans for compliance with the region's transportation plan. The GMA requires that governments review their comprehensive plans every five years. Disputes between government entities and with private parties are brought before one of three Growth Management Hearing Boards, the quasi-judicial dispute resolution mechanism developed under GMA. If a Growth Management Hearings Board determines a plan does not comply with the GMA, the plan is sent back to the government that drafted it to bring it into compliance.
    The GMA sets 13 goals, each of which a comprehensive plan can address separately, though the plans must be both internally consistent and consistent with countywide planning policies adopted by the county. The 13 goals include:
    • Urban Growth
    • Reduce Sprawl
    • Transportation
    • Housing
    • Economic Development
    • Property Rights
    • Permits
    • Natural Resource Lands
    • Open Space and Recreation
    • Environment
    • Citizen Participation
    • Public Facilities/Services
    • Historic Preservation
    Each plan must contain at least five elements: land use, housing, capital facilities, utilities and transportation; county plans must also contain a rural element. Under the GMA, the state can use a combination of incentives and sanctions. The most notable sanction is the withdrawal of state funds from counties which do not comply with GMA. Incentives in the form of financial support for provision of services and infrastructure needed to accommodate growth within urban growth areas, have not been forthcoming from the state.
    Application to Utah:
    Washington's GMA offers an institutional arrangement model which combines a state-wide policy which includes timing and planning requirements with bottom-up local control of plan preparation and development. GMA exempts slow-growing counties from its planning requirements, and establishes regionally-based hearing boards to resolve disputes. These aspects of the law make it largely self-sustaining without a new state policing and approval bureaucracy. However, since OCD is not able to adopt binding regulations to refine and amplify the requirements of the GMA, the hearings board decisions are creating a common law of what the GMA means. This decision by decision explanation of the GMA requirements can be difficult for planners and citizens to work with.
    Washington Office of Community Development, 360-725-3000
    Some relevant websites: Washington Office of Community Development, Washington Smart Growth Resources, Hearing Boards

    Regional Authority
    Georgia Regional Transportation Authoriy, Atlanta Region, Georgia
    The Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA) oversees transportation and commercial development in the Atlanta Region to ensure that regional growth follows the guidelines set out by the regional transportation strategy. GRTA uses its regional viewpoint to evaluate local decisions in the larger context of regional strategies guiding growth.
    At this time, GRTA encompasses 13 counties surrounding Atlanta. The jurisdiction includes all counties in non-attainment of Clean Air Act air quality standards. GRTA may expand in the future to include more counties and may even cross state lines if the region's air quality problems expand to new areas.
    Administered by:
    This is an government agency led by a 15-member Board of Directors. The governor of Georgia appoints the members of the board.
    GRTA is funded by the Georgia Legislature and by federal and foundation grants.
    When developed:
    The Georgia Legislature created this new authority in 1999 at the urging of Governor Ray Barnes. The Atlanta region, one of the nation's fastest growing and most sprawling metropolitan areas, had lost its federal transportation funding due to the region's failure to attain federal air quality standards.
    How it works:
    GRTA oversees land use, transportation and major developments within its jurisdiction, and prepares a regional plan focused on land-based transportation and air quality. In its first year, GRTA's primary focus was to prepare and adopt a regional transportation plan which met the policy intent of TEA-21 and federal Clean Air Act Amendments and would gain approval of the US Department of Transportation. Such approval would allow the region to again receive federal highway money. (GRTA achieved this goal in August 2000.)
    GRTA has broad-ranging authority, unique to a metropolitan agency, in areas of transportation and land use, including the ability to:
    • Plan, design, acquire, construct, operate and maintain land-based public transportation systems
    • Extend credit or make loans and grants and borrow money (up to two billion dollars)
    • Receive federal funds designated for the alleviation of congestion and air pollution
    • Provide technical assistance to state and local governments
    • Review MPO and GDOT transportation plans, and adopt the plans as part of the GRTA's own regional transportation plan, or veto the plan
    • Formulate measurable targets for air quality improvements
    GRTA influences local land use planning and decision-making through its power to define developments of regional impact (DRI), which it must review, and its ability to limit or control access to any road within its jurisdiction. With strong support from the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and the business community, GRTA is working to build partnerships with community and government agencies and governments within its jurisdiction to create an environment in which all stakeholders are working towards a common vision of future development.
    Application to Utah:
    This regional authority covers a quickly-growing metropolitan region with air quality challenges, similar to Salt Lake City. Both of these vibrant metropolitan regions are located in strong home rule states historically deferential to local land use authority. GRTA represents an institutional paradigm shift in response to the crisis of the loss of federal highway funding. Some major private developers and employers are changing where they build new housing and offices, away from sprawl and toward infill and new urbanist patterns.
    Sylvia Greer , Public Affairs Specialist, 404-463-3047
    Reference: Nelson, Arthur C. (2000). "New Kid in Town: The Georgia Regional Transportation Authority and Its role in Managing Growth in Metropolitan Georgia." Wake Forest Law Review, Fall 2000.

    Joint Exercise of Powers
    Joint Exercise of Powers Act, California
    The Joint Exercise of Powers Act (JEPA) authorizes governmental entities to combine their efforts to implement programs or policies which cross jurisdictional lines, enabling a regional approach to issues such as transportation, land use, schools, libraries, or utilities. JEPA enables jurisdictions to exercise regional power and implement tools in circumstances that are interjurisdictional and regional in nature.
    JEPA applies statewide and is scalable to fit geographic and organizational size.
    Administered by:
    Eligible authorities which enter into an agreement.
    Part of agency administration. While not the usual source of funding for joint powers agencies, California law allows any joint powers agency to issue revenue bonds and short term notes to support acquisition, construction, financing and incidental expenses of projects.
    When developed:
    The California Legislature enacted the Joint Exercise of Powers Act in 1949.
    How it works:
    California's Joint Exercise of Powers Act, California Government Code 6500-6599.1, is the fundamental legal basis for cooperation among local units of government in California. Government units, such as cities, townships, school districts, special districts and state agencies, can agree to jointly or cooperatively perform a service or function common to both participants in the agreement. The law provides for three types of arrangements:
    • shared responsibility for the service provision,
    • the purchase of a service by one governmental unit from another through a service contract, or
    • the creation of a new entity to administer the agreement.
    JEPA enables existing public entities to exercise common powers up to the maximum extent allowed any of the parties. It also enables JEPA compacts to issue revenue bonds and short term notes. This act permits local governments to voluntarily cooperate at a regional or sub-regional scale when needs cross traditional jurisdictional lines.
    Application to Utah:
    JEPA represents a law which enables local entities to voluntarily develop authorities that could address regional, land use, transportation, housing and quality growth issues in a bottom-up approach. Utah state law authorizes Interlocal Cooperation Agreements to enable government agencies to jointly exercise powers to the extent authorized to both agencies. While already in use in Utah, more widespread use of this law would foster regional approaches to common situations and build a tradition of cooperation among jurisdictions.
    Kenneth Moy, Legal Counsel, Association of Bay Area Governments, tel: 510-464-7914
    Relevant Websites: Joint Powers Association, California Government Code 6500-6599.1, Utah Code 11:13
    References: Daniel Carlson and Stephen King (1998) "Linking Transportation and Land Use by Fostering Inter-Jurisdictional Cooperation: Enabling Legislation in Eight States"

    County/City Interlocal Agreeement
    King County and City of Seattle Transfer of Development Rights Agreement, Washington
    The King County/City of Seattle Transfer of Development Credits (TDC) program supports the region's goals of encouraging development in urban areas of Seattle while preserving open space in rural King County. Through an Interlocal Agreement, this program establishes an arrangement whereby the city and county work together to realize complementary aspects of their respective visions.
    Washington State's Interlocal Cooperation Act allows local governmental units to cooperate to exercise powers and deliver services common to both entities. This Interlocal agreement covers areas in rural King County and in a specified urban district near downtown Seattle.
    Administered by:
    King County and the City of Seattle.
    This program is staffed by county and city employees.
    When developed:
    The interlocal agreement for this program was approved in April 2000.
    How it works:
    Through an interlocal agreement between King County and the City of Seattle, this program allows property owners to sell the development potential from a sending site in rural King County and transfer the development credits to a receiving site in the Denny Triangle Neighborhood in downtown Seattle. Developers can then build at a greater density than would have been allowed under the area's zoning, up to a set maximum. In addition, developers contribute to public amenities to enhance the residential character of the area. The program has generated interest both within the developer community and from rural landowners.
    The TDC process operates through the free market, although the amount of transfer credits available for each site is set by the City's Land Use Code. This program is one of several that the county has with cities designed to promote denser urban development and preservation of rural land and open space, key components of the city and county comprehensive plans.
    Application to Utah:
    Salt Lake City has developed light rail infrastructure that can support increased residential and employment density. Surrounding counties, with the encouragement of Utah's Quality Growth Act and its Utah Land Conservation Easement Act, may want to protect agricultural, open space and rural lands. The transfer of development credits approach mediates the voluntary, real estate market mechanism to achieve both ends. Contacts:
    Mark Sollitto, King County Office of Regional Policy and Planning, Program Director, 206-205-0705
    Elsie Crossman, City of Seattle Strategic Planning Office, 206-684-8364
    Websites: King County Program Description, , Interlocal Agreement Documents, City of Seattle Program Description, Revised Code of Washington: Title 39, Chapter 34