GMA reform: To wait – or not

GMA reform: To wait – or not

Stakeholders are divided over whether state lawmakers should pass HB 2342 sponsored by Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34) or wait until a possible Growth Management Act (GMA) work group funded through the Senate operating budget is convened.

The legislation would, among other things, have local government comprehensive plan updates required under GMA along with Shoreline Management Act periodic reviews occur every 10 instead of eight years in order to coincide with the census update.

The bill cleared the House with a unanimous vote on Feb. 19 and on Feb. 27 was passed out of the Senate Environment, Energy & Technology Committee.

Under GMA, cities and counties subject to planning under the state law must update comprehensive plans that establish land-use and zoning based on population and job growth projections and goals. The 1971 Shoreline Management Act also requires local governments to create shoreline master programs regulating land-use in shoreline areas. Currently, the next update is scheduled for 2023.

However, state Department of Commerce Growth Management Transportation Planning Managing Director Dave Andersen told the committee at a Feb. 26 public hearing that local governments will lack the latest census data from the state Office of Financial Management.

“One of the basic functions of the periodic updates is to incorporate new census information, and that tells you something about the timeliness of this bill,” he said.

Under HB 2342, the periodic updates will get pushed back by a full year, a change Anderson says “allows people to actually have the data they need to start the update process. We believe it’s actually fairly urgent to get something done on this.”

He added that switching to a 10-year cycle “means we’re not back in this same problem with the next round of updates. We think both of those are really important parts of creating an update schedule that basically makes sense and is practical.”

Other stakeholders in favor of the bill include the Association of Washington Cities, which chose not to testify at the hearing.

However, Washington State Association of Counties Policy Director Paul Jewell told the committee that the bill should be put on hold while a work group funded through the Senate operating budget (page 55) convenes to discuss recommended GMA legislation in response to the William D. Ruckelshaus Center’s 2019 Road Map to Washington’s Future report.

“We think that this could easily be part of that discussion,” Jewell said. “We think the table is really set to have those discussions. We’d like to move forward…under those circumstances.”

Also opposed was Bryce Yadon with Futurewise. He told the committee that while “we did work hard to try to get to a place where we could get comfortable with the 10-year planning cycle…we don’t think we can move this bill at this time if there is further conversations we would like to see happen.” He cited a pair of bills adding climate change to the GMA (HB 2609 and SB 6335) that have not advanced, which he said were connected to the bill.

SB 2342 has been referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

TJ Martinell is a native Washingtonian and award-winning journalist. Born and raised in Bellevue, he’s been involved in the news industry since working at his high school newspaper.

His investigative reporting for various community newspapers in the Puget Sound region has been recognized by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association and the Society for Professional Journalists.

A graduate of Eastern Washington University, he has a B.A. in journalism and was the news editor of EWU’s student university newspaper.

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