County wins growth ruling in state Supreme Court

By Keri Brenner | The Olympian • Published August 14, 2008

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In a landmark decision, the state Supreme Court today unanimously ruled that GMA (state Growth Management Act) clearly does not require a county to reenact a new comprehensive plan every seven years.

·         Supreme Court ruling (weblink)

The five-judge panel, in a 40-page decision, reverses, in part, a Court of Appeals ruling and remands the decision back to the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board regarding its July 2005 ruling on Thurston County's 2004 update of its comprehensive plan.

The decision means that third parties, such as land-use watchdog group Futurewise (formerly 1000 Friends of Washington) -- which filed the original challenge against Thurston County's plan update -- may only challenge new or amended elements of a county's plan update, and not the whole comprehensive plan.

"We're very satisfied with this decision," said Don Krupp, Thurston County's chief administrative officer. "The central issue, that the GMA does not expect or require a county to revise every aspect of its comprehensive plan when it does its seven-year update, was the key issue we were asking the court to examine.

"We think the decision was well-thought-out and respectful of the goals that the state GMA intended to achieve," Krupp added. "We believe it assures cities and property owners that certainty and predictability are essential values of the GMA.

"Most importantly," he said, "it restores to local government and the citizens they represent the ability to choose how best to manage growth within their own communities."

Tim Trohimovich, planning director for Futurewise, was not immediately available for comment.

For more on this story, see Friday's Olympian.

Political editor Brad Shannon is writing about the ruling at The Politics Blog.


UPDATED: High court says Thurston land-use update needs more work

posted 12:21 PM 08/14
Link this article here.

The state Supreme Court has sent Thurston County’s much disputed 2004 amendments to a comprehensive land-use plan back to a regional state hearings board to reconsider aspects of it.

Justice Mary Fairhurst penned the unanimous ruling today. The 9-0 decision appears to have many ramifications — because the question of the county’s conformity with the Growth Management Act has been in dispute a great many years. This only prolongs the debate.

Go here to read the ruling.

The Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board previously found the plan updates did not conform with act requirements for rural densities and urban growth areas.

The remand, according to the court, asks the board “to determine whether a market factor was employed by the County in revising its UGAs and whether the County's designations were clearly erroneous. We also remand the case to the Board to determine whether it was clearly erroneous for the County to include densities greater than one dwelling unit per five acres in its rural element and whether the County provided for a variety of rural densities by the use of innovative zoning techniques. “

Keri Brenner of The Olympian is working on this story and will be gauging its significance.

UPDATE: The free-market advocating Washington Policy Center in Seattle called the decision a “small victory” for property owners and property rights. The Building Industry Association of Washington and environmental group Futurewise (formerly 1000 Friends of Washington) intervened or were parties in the case.


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