After years of looking at ways to amend the Growth Management Act (GMA), the state is taking another stab at it via a new task force by the Department of Commerce.
The new task force’s work will be based in part on prior studies, including the 2019 Road Map to Washington’s Future study conducted by the William D. Ruckelshaus Center. For county and city advocates, one outcome they hope to see are recommendations or a pathway toward greater state funding for the local planning that’s required under GMA.
“We just need resources to get that done,” Washington Association of Counties (WAC) Government Relations Director Paul Jewell told the House Local Government Committee at its June 17 meeting. “We need to have some sort of funding resources that are dedicated to local planning.”
Under GMA, counties and cities must make updates to their comprehensive plans every eight years, which includes zoning, land-use, and residential and employment growth projections. However, WAC and the Association of Washington Cities have repeatedly emphasized the costs borne by their members to conduct that planning which can create budgetary strains. The organizations have also noted that while initially the state provided $16 million in grant money for local planning within the first two years of GMA’s passage, between 2017-2019 the state allotted just $1 million.
Yet some state lawmakers have sought to add more planning requirements on top of existing regulations. HB 1099 sponsored by Rep. Davina Duerr (D-1) this legislative session would have added new goals and other elements to be included in local government comprehensive plans. The bill cleared the House but failed to reach the Senate floor for a vote. HB 1117 sponsored by Rep. Debra Lekanoff (D-40) would have added salmon recovery to GMA’s goals; it also cleared the House but failed to land a Senate vote.
Jewell noted at the June 17 meeting that both bills were written in a way that acknowledged the differences between small and large local governments when it comes to planning by creating separate requirements. While the city of Lakewood has 19 people involved in planning, the city of Buckley currently only has one, though it’s in the process of potentially hiring a second planner.
Buckley Mayor Pat Johnson told the committee that in addition to a small planning staff, the comprehensive plan updates cost $100,000 or more – in a city whose annual and most recent annual operating budget is less than $6 million.
“It’s very difficult to meet a lot of these requirements,” she said.