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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, January 27, 2006
Jennifer Hayes, Senior Planner, 360-786-5477 for Rural Rezoning Project
Nancy Pritchett, Associate Planner, 360-754-3355x6474 for LAMIRD Project

County Continues Work on Rural Rezoning- Public Input Not Over

OLYMPIA – Thurston County has concluded the first phase of its public outreach program for a project to consider possible zoning changes in the rural area. Staff is now working with the Planning Commission and Board of County Commissioners to plan the next phase of the project, which will include additional public input opportunities.  More than 800 people attended two open houses and four workshops held in December and January where they learned about the State order behind the project and about options for possible rezoning. Participants provided direct input to the County about the kinds of lands that should or should not be considered for rezoning. They also presented ideas about how to mitigate the adverse impacts rezoning may have on some property owners. Additional public comment has been coming to staff via e-mail and letters.

Senior Planner Jennifer Hayes says, "The public input has been very diverse, with opinions on all sides of the issue. In general, people worked very well together at the workshops to generate interesting ideas, from suggestions for voluntary rezoning to a focus on critical drinking water, agricultural, and forestry resources for lower development densities. We're beginning to analyze the input to find common threads that decision-makers may focus on as they begin the next phase of the project."

The project was sparked by a July 2005 ruling by the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board that zoning in the rural parts of Thurston County did not provide enough variety of densities, which in other jurisdictions includes areas such as one housing unit per 10 acres or one per 20.  The Hearings Board also asked the planners to review rural areas that are denser than one housing unit per five acres and define them as "Limited Areas of More Intensive Rural Development" (LAMIRDSs) if they meet specific criteria; otherwise they must be rezoned.

Summaries of input from those open houses will be posted on the Thurston County GMA Compliance website (http://www.co.thurston.wa.us/permitting/GMA/) in the coming weeks.

Hayes says, "These initial public meetings were just the first phase of our public participation program. Once the Planning Commission and Board of County Commissioners have had a chance to review the comments, we'll be going back out to the public to gather additional input, hopefully on some more specific rezone study area options and new zoning ordinance language."  The next phase of public outreach is slated to begin in the spring and continue through summer. The Planning Commission and Board of County Commissioners will be meeting with staff in February and March to review the input received thus far and determine next steps.

For more information on the Rural Rezoning or LAMIRD projects, county residents can visit the county's web site at http://www.co.thurston.wa.us/permitting/GMA/.  Those interested may also call Jennifer Hayes at 360-786-5477 for information about the Rural Rezoning project or Nancy Pritchett at 360-754-3355 Ext.6474 for information about the LAMIRD project.

County Commissioners:

Carolina Mejia
District 1

Gary Edwards
District 2

Tye Menser
District 3