GMA is public’s chance to determine our future

Dec 04, 2013


In the heat of the recent City Council races, an Edmonds resident asked me if I was “happy with the Affordable Care Act.” Rather than respond to the question posed by Mrs. Adair in a letter published in the Oct. 31 edition of the Edmonds Beacon, I will speak about a piece of legislation pertinent to our city.

The Washington State Growth Management Act (GMA) was enacted into law in 1990 to stem the tide of suburban sprawl and direct future population growth into urban areas. The framers of the GMA saw the need to preserve agricultural lands and open space in the state’s rural areas.

The GMA defines the criteria for determining whether a jurisdiction is classified as an Urban Growth Area (UGA).  The UGA boundaries have been mapped by the state’s Department of Ecology Geographic Information System (GIS) Technical Services Division.

Edmonds has been designated as a UGA and is required to welcome just over 5,000 new residents to our city. The State of Washington does not tell a city where to build new houses. That is the task of each jurisdiction.

To accommodate the population increase, Edmonds is required to prepare and periodically update a comprehensive plan that incorporates land use; residential development, including affordable housing; capital facilities; transportation, including walkways, trails, and bike lanes; economic development; parks and recreation.

In its wisdom, the state legislature recognized the need for each jurisdiction to preserve “critical areas” such as wetlands; marshes; bogs; frequently flooded lands; steep slopes; soils subject to liquefaction; fish and wildlife habitats; stream corridors and shorelines.

When formulating policies and plans, cities are asked to utilize “the best available science.” The concept of relying on the latest advances in science allows municipalities to consider the effects of climate change as a factor in the planning process.

The GMA opens up the opportunity for regional planning, recognizing that watersheds, wildlife habitats, parks, and transportation corridors do not necessarily end at city or county boundaries. The GMA encourages cooperation among neighboring jurisdictions.

What does the GMA mean to the citizenry? The GMA requires each jurisdiction to incorporate citizen involvement into the development and updates of the comprehensive plan.

The GMA goes even further by requiring public participation during the implementation of the comprehensive plan components through zoning and other development regulations.

What does the GMA mean to city staff and elected officials? To be in accord with the GMA, it is necessary to develop a community outreach plan.

“The procedures shall provide for broad dissemination of proposals and alternatives, opportunity for written comments, public meetings after effective notice, provision for open discussion, communication programs, information services, and consideration of and response to public comments.” (RCW 36.70A.140)

As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, let us thank the authors of our state’s Growth Management Act.

The legislation is written in the spirit of Lincoln’s speech recognizing that we are a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Barbara Tipton


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