Current through Register Vol. 22-07, April 1, 2022
Through the Growth Management Act, the legislature provided a
new framework for land use planning and the regulation of development in
Washington state. The act was enacted in response to problems associated with
uncoordinated and unplanned growth and a lack of common goals in the
conservation and the wise use of our lands. The problems included increased
traffic congestion, pollution, school overcrowding, urban sprawl, and the loss
of rural lands.
Major features of
the act's framework include:
(a) A requirement
that counties with specified populations and rates of growth and the cities
within them adopt comprehensive plans and development regulations under the
act. Other counties can choose to be covered by this requirement, thereby
including the cities they contain.
(b) A set of common goals to guide the
development of comprehensive plans and development regulations.
(c) The concept that the process should be a
"bottom up" effort, involving early and continuous public participation, with
the central locus of decision-making at the local level, bounded by the goals
and requirements of the act.
Requirements for the locally developed plans to be internally consistent,
consistent with county-wide planning policies and multicounty planning
policies, and consistent with the plans of other counties and cities where
there are common borders or related regional issues.
(e) A requirement that development
regulations adopted to implement the comprehensive plans be consistent with
(f) The principle that
development and the providing of public facilities and services needed to
support development should occur concurrently.
A determination that planning and plan
implementation actions should address difficult issues that have resisted
resolution in the past, such as:
timely financing of needed infrastructure;
(ii) Providing adequate and affordable
housing for all economic segments of the population;
(iii) Concentrating growth in urban areas,
provided with adequate urban services;
(iv) The siting of essential public
(v) The designation and
conservation of agricultural, forest, and mineral resource lands;
(vi) The designation and protection of
environmentally critical areas.
(h) A determination that comprehensive
planning can simultaneously address these multiple issues by focusing on the
land development process as a common underlying factor.
(i) An intention that economic development be
encouraged and fostered within the planning and regulatory scheme established
for managing growth.
recognition that the act is a fundamental building block of regulatory reform.
The state and local government have invested considerable resources in an act
that should serve as the integrating framework for other land use related
(k) A desire to recognize the
importance of rural areas and provide for rural economic development.
(l) A requirement that counties and cities
must periodically review and update their comprehensive plans and development
regulations to ensure continued compliance with the goals and requirements of
(2) The pattern
of development established in the act. The act calls for a pattern of
development that consists of different types of land uses existing on the
landscape. These types generally include urban land, rural land, resource
lands, and critical areas. Critical areas exist in rural, urban, and resource
lands. Counties and cities must designate lands in these categories and develop
policies governing development consistent with these designations. The act
establishes criteria to guide the designation process and to guide the
character of development in these lands.
(3) How the act applies to existing developed
areas. The act is prospective in nature. It establishes a framework for how
counties and cities plan for future growth. In many areas, the pattern called
for in the act is a departure from the pattern that existed prior to the act.
As a consequence, areas developed prior to the act may not clearly fit into the
pattern of development established in the act. In rural areas, comprehensive
plans developed under the act should find locally appropriate ways to recognize
these areas without allowing these patterns to spread into new undeveloped
areas. In urban areas, comprehensive plans should find locally appropriate ways
to encourage redevelopment of these areas in a manner consistent with the
pattern of development envisioned by the act.