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House passes GMA “reform” bill

House passes GMA “reform” bill

The state House voted 54-43 on March 8 in favor of ESHB 1241 sponsored Rep. Davina Duerr (D-1), which would amend various parts of local government land-use planning and give tribes more control over that process. Some lawmakers opposed the legislation that despite certain positive aspects adds additional planning burdens for local governments that already struggle to fund existing requirements.

“We’ve really layered a tremendous amount of planning…and we have not provided the funding for that planning to take place,” Rep. Keith Goehner (R-12) told colleagues on March 8.

Under the state Growth Management Act (GMA) and the Shoreline Management Act, cities and counties have to update comprehensive plans regarding land-use and zoning every eight years. ESHB 1241 would extend that cycle to 10 years. However, local governments with 7,500 residents or more would also have to create an annual work program for implementing the plan update and submit a progress report to the state Department of Commerce every five years; that requirement wouldn’t apply to cities and counties that have experienced a population decline over the past two years. ESHB 1241 differs from the original bill in that it would allow Commerce to adopt guidelines, rather than rules, regarding criteria to include in their implementation progress reports.

However, the bill would also mandate that tribes be given greater control over how planning is conducted.

That includes:

  • Tribal notification of planning by cities and counties, upon request;
  • Tribal consultation during the GMA planning processes, upon request;
  • Tribal collaboration on the port container element of the comprehensive plan; and
  • Tribal mediation or rejection of a comprehensive plan amendment within 60 days of its adoption.

Many of these provisions were not included in the original bill and were added later when the bill was finally heard in the House Local Government Committee. The decision garnered protest from many of those testifying who had initially supported the bill’s goal to extend planning cycles.

Speaking before the March 8 vote, Duerr said the bill is “about listening to and working with our tribal nations. As we plan for growth and development, tribal nations will now be trusted partners in that discussion.”

Goehner said that while the revised bill “makes it more workable for cities and counties…the savings will be far offset by the additional planning incumbencies we’ve placed on our local jurisdictions.”

ESHB 1241 has not yet been referred to a Senate 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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