OLYMPIA – Thurston County Commissioners have voted to appeal a ruling of the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board to Superior Court. The Hearings Board ruled in August that the county was out of compliance with the state's Growth Management Act on several fronts including; lack of a variety of less dense zoning in the rural areas (like one housing unit per ten acres or one per twenty), not enough set aside of agricultural lands and that urban growth areas around the cities are too large. The Hearings Board denied an earlier request for reconsideration.
Thurston County Chief Administrative Officer Don Krupp says there are several reasons why an appeal to Superior Court is appropriate. "There are some technical issues that we need to resolve, including whether the group 1,000 Friends of Washington (now Futurewise) has any standing to appeal growth management decisions made in Thurston County . Also up for question is whether certain planning decisions made in 1994 can be challenged in 2005, eleven years later." Krupp says, "By filing the appeal we protect our opportunity to address matters where we think the Hearings Board has erred. It is important for everyone to find out exactly what standards we are operating under as we try to plan for the growth that we know is coming."
At the same time, Krupp says county planners are working to refine growth management plans in reaction to the Hearings Board ruling. "While we continue the appeal in court, we have concentrated county resources in reaction to the earlier ruling. County employees are working to resolve the differences between our current plans and the issues of non-compliance raised by the Hearings Board. If we are able to resolve any of those issues, they would be pulled from the court appeal."
Krupp says the county hopes to resolve the issues in a timely manner. "We know that the 6-month moratorium on new sub-divisions is a hardship for a lot of Thurston County residents. The quicker we can determine the proper solution to this, the quicker we can provide some certainty to citizens who are directly impacted."
Current schedules call for a report to Thurston County Commissioners and the Growth Management Hearings Board on compliance issues in January of next year.