The Snohomish County Council on Wednesday morning decided to postpone a vote on an emergency moratorium that would halt new construction in areas at risk of landslides.
The six-month moratorium, proposed by Council Chair Dave Somers, would disallow any new residential building-permit applications in areas within a half-mile of slopes in landslide hazard zones that have been mapped by the county. It would not affect projects that already have received building permits or submitted complete applications.
Somers said at the Wednesday morning council session the devastating Oso landslide “obviously was far greater in extent than anybody could have expected,” but added that the disaster “raises questions about the role of county government as we move forward.”
He said the moratorium would allow a “time out” for the county to assess landslide risks and determine whether new rules need to be imposed — either to restrict development or to better inform homeowners of risk. County council staff estimated the moratorium could block between 25 and 100 housing units over a six-month period.
But after a brief discussion, the council voted unanimously to delay a vote on the moratorium for one week to give county staff more time to examine the proposal. The council will take up the matter on Monday.
“Emergency ordinances are always, and should be, carefully vetted by all county agencies,” said Councilmember Brian Sullivan. “I think it’s important to understand the implications.”
Forty-one people were killed when a hillside collapsed in Oso on March 22, burying dozens of homes in the Steelhead Haven neighborhood as well as a portion of state Highway 530. Two people remain missing.