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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Diane Oberquell, Thurston County Commission Chairman, 360-786-5440
Bob Macleod,  Thurston  County  Commissioner, 360-786-5440
 Cathy Wolfe, Thurston County Commissioner, 360-786-5440
Don Krupp, Chief Administrative Officer, 360-786-5440

Commissioners Ask Reconsideration of Growth Management Ruling

OLYMPIA – Thurston County Commissioners have asked the State Growth Management Hearings Board to reconsider a ruling made earlier this month, that declared the county out of compliance with some parts of the state Growth Management Act. (GMA)  The hearings board for Western Washington ruled that the county's urban growth areas near the cities were too large, that the county's rural zoning was not varied enough and that more agricultural lands needed to be set aside.   Thurston Commission Chairman Diane Oberquell says there are grounds for reconsideration.  "We have been a statewide leader in efforts to encourage logical and orderly growth that allows for expansion while doing the most to protect the environment.  The decision issued by the Growth Management Hearings Board acknowledges that Thurston County achieves the goals of the Growth Management Act in creative and impressive ways." 

Commissioner Cathy Wolfe agrees that the county has done a good job managing growth but understands that the hearings board decision may mean more work lies ahead.  "I feel we need to work with the state to clarify some issues.  For example, there may be discrepancies in population forecasts and inventories of land available for building that need to be reevaluated."

Until the issues are worked out, a majority of the board of county commissioners has declared a moratorium on new subdivisions.  Commissioner Bob Macleod says the temporary ban is a reasonable response to something the county has no control over.  "The Growth Management Hearings Board has directed the county to make major changes in zoning that would impact all of the citizens of the county and many property owners and developers.  None of us likes moratoriums but this gives us time to consider all the options, including a potential court appeal, without a huge rush of folks trying to file subdivision applications."

Commissioner Diane Oberquell supports the petition for reconsideration but opposes the moratorium. 

The moratorium on new subdivisions is set to last six months.  A public hearing will be held within 60 days.  County officials say the ban may be adjusted or lifted early depending on progress with the state in reaching an agreement.

County Administrator Don Krupp says county staff work will be realigned to ensure that work on the GMA issues is a top priority.  "We will have to cut back on some planning projects in order to make this happen, but it is necessary to do this.  Deciding where growth will happen and where it will not is always a very sensitive issue.  We will work closely with county residents, our city partners and with the state to ensure that what comes out of this process is as fair and equitable to everyone as possible and best balances growth with environmental protection."

County Commissioners:

Carolina Mejia
District 1

Gary Edwards
District 2

Tye Menser
District 3