PLANNING AND THE GROWTH MANAGEMENT ACT
By the late 1980s, Washington's quality of life was threatened by sprawl, traffic congestion and loss of agricultural and timber lands. Passage of the Growth Management Act (GMA) in 1990 by the State Legislature was in response to these growing concerns. GMA requires all cities and counties to do some planning. The fastest growing counties, and cities within them, are required to adopt comprehensive plans and development regulations (e.g. zoning codes) to implement plans. GMA sets forth 13 goals that comprehensive plans are required to address. The goals address the following topics:
What is a Comprehensive Plan?
A comprehensive plan is a legal document adopted by the City Council establishing policies that will guide the future physical development of the community. It will be used by the City Council, Planning Commission, private firms and individuals when making decisions about land use development or changes, capital improvements programming, and the enactment of development regulations and related growth management legislation.
Consistency. The GMA calls for "consistency" in a number of contexts. First, a comprehensive plan must be internally consistent. For example, the housing densities selected and the wetlands to be protected can both be achieved on the available land base. Second, each comprehensive plan must be consistent with other comprehensive plans of cities and counties with common borders or related regional issues. Third, zoning and other development regulations must be consistent with the comprehensive plan. Periodic upgrade and revision is required to assure that the plan adequately provides for growth, and reflects community desires and changing conditions.
Concurrency. GMA contains a requirement for concurrency. Concurrency means that public facilities (e.g. streets, schools, water systems) needed by new development must be in place when the new development is occupied, or within 6 years if the needed facilities are addressed in the City's 6-year Capital Facilities Plan. Tumwater requires concurrency for the following types of public facilities: streets, traffic signals, sidewalks, street/road lighting systems, mass transit, water, sewer and storm sewer systems, parks and schools.
Critical Areas. Tumwater is required to adopt and implement regulations that protect critical areas. Critical areas include wetlands, aquifer recharge areas, fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas, frequently flooded areas, and geologically hazardous areas. Tumwater adopted critical areas regulations in August 1991 as a part of the Conservation Plan, an element of the Tumwater Comprehensive Plan.
Accommodating Urban Growth.
One of the many tools provided by the GMA to manage growth is the establishment of an urban growth area (UGA). Establishing a UGA involves drawing a line that separates urban and rural areas. Encouragement of urban growth and development patterns is required within the UGA.
A UGA must be able to accommodate a 20 year projected population increase. Thurston Regional Planning Council estimated in August 1992 that Tumwater would need to accommodate approximately 6,200 new residents over the next 20 years. Tumwater worked with its citizens in an extensive 2 year process to adopt a comprehensive plan that would manage this new growth in a beneficial way. Goals and policies were established to encourage infill within existing urban areas and the logical expansion of urban growth into the urban growth area. Tumwater citizens recognized in preparing the comprehensive plan that location, density, mix and design of new housing are the most critical factors in creating stronger, more livable neighborhoods, easing traffic problems, curbing sprawl, preserving valuable natural areas, and providing affordable housing.
Development and zoning regulations were updated by the city in December 1995 to be consistent with and implement the comprehensive plan. Impact fees were established to help pay for roads, community parks and school improvements needed to serve new development.
The comprehensive plan was prepared in open public meetings by subcommittees of the Planning Commission. Articles on the planning process appeared frequently in the city's newsletter, the PIONEER. The Planning Commission held public hearings to consider the recommendations of the subcommittees. The Planning Commission forwarded the draft comprehensive plan to the City Council in the form of a recommendation. Public hearings were held by the City Council prior to adopting the comprehensive plan.
Planning is an ongoing process. Proposed amendments to the comprehensive plan are considered once every year, beginning in January. Citizen involvement occurs primarily through this amendment process. You may direct questions to the Planning and Facilities Department at (360) 754-4210 or see Amending the Tumwater Comprehensive Plan on our web site.
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January 10, 2013