2009 Comprehensive Plan Compliance Project

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of this project?
What is the Growth Management Act?
What is a comprehensive plan?
Who says the Plan is out of compliance?
What is the Growth Management Hearings Board?
How is the County out of compliance?
How will the County achieve compliance?
What is an Urban Growth Area (UGA)?
How will the County validate the size of the Kittitas Urban Growth Area?
How will new land use designations be determined in County subareas?
How are these subareas designated now?
What land use designations are allowed?
What are Urban lands?
What are Resource lands?
What are Rural lands?
What is a LAMIRD?
Who will make decisions about changes to the County's Comprehensive Plan?
What is the public's role in the process?
What happens if the County doesn't comply?
When will the County's Comprehensive Plan be updated?
How is the County going to get this done before the end of the year?
What happens after this?
What is SEPA?

What is the purpose of this project?

The purpose of this project is to achieve compliance with the GMA.

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What is the Growth Management Act?

The GMA was adopted into law by the Washington State Legislature in 1990. It provides a comprehensive framework to local jurisdictions for managing growth, including guidance for designating, sizing, and providing services to urban and rural areas.

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What is a comprehensive plan?

A comprehensive plan guides the location, density and intensity of future development, conserves natural resources, and ensures adequate public infrastructure to serve future residents and employees. It includes policies about how future growth should occur and a map identifying locations for residential, commercial, industrial, and other land uses. A comprehensive plan must show that adequate infrastructure and services to support future land use are planned and financed. A comprehensive plan provides property owners with predictability about future land use patterns and guides local government decision-makers.

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Who says the County's Comprehensive Plan is out of compliance?

The Eastern Washington Growth Management Hearings Board (EWGMHB) hears disputes arising from the adoption of comprehensive plans. In 2007 the Kittitas Comprehensive Plan was appealed to the EWGMHB. After review, the EWGMHB concluded that the County's Comprehensive Plan does not comply with specific sections of the GMA. Orders relating to the County's Comprehensive Plan compliance can be found on the EWGMHB web site.

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What is the Growth Management Hearings Board?

The GMA established Growth Management Hearings Boards to hear disputes arising from the adoption of comprehensive plans and development regulations. There are three Growth Management Hearings Boards: the Eastern Board for counties and cities east of the Cascade Mountains; the Central Puget Sound Board for the four Central Puget Sound counties and the cities within these counties; and the Western Board for all other counties and cities west of the Cascade Mountains. The Eastern Board hears disputes from Kittitas County.

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How is the County out of compliance?

The County is out of compliance with regard to certain provisions of the GMA including:

  • Designation of the areas previously designated as Urban Growth Nodes (UGN): Vantage, Thorp, Ronald, Easton, and Snoqualmie Pass
  • Documentation identifying the boundaries of the City of Kittitas UGA
  • Designation and de-designation of forest and agricultural lands
  • Conducting a SEPA review

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How will the County achieve compliance?

To meet the requirements of state law, the County must:

  • Analyze how much growth can occur and identify new land use designations for Vantage, Thorp, Ronald, Easton and Snoqualmie Pass
  • Show its work in determining the size of the City of Kittitas UGA
  • Include criteria for identifying agriculture and forest lands
  • Meet SEPA procedural requirements

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What is an Urban Growth Area (UGA)?

RCW 36.70A.110 defines Urban Growth Areas (UGAs) as areas within which urban growth shall be encouraged and outside of which growth can occur only if it is not urban in nature. For counties planning under the Growth Management Act, each city in such a county shall be included within an urban growth area.

The county and each city within the county shall include areas and densities sufficient to permit the urban growth that is projected to occur in the county or city for the succeeding twenty-year period. Urban growth should be located first in areas already characterized by urban growth that have adequate existing public facility and service capacities to serve such development, second in areas already characterized by urban growth that will be served adequately by a combination of both existing public facilities and services and any additional needed public facilities and services that are provided by either public or private sources, and third in the remaining portions of the urban growth areas.

An urban growth area may include territory that is located outside of a city only if such territory already is characterized by urban growth whether or not the urban growth area includes a city, or is adjacent to territory already characterized by urban growth, or is a designated new fully contained community as defined by RCW 36.70A.350.

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How will the County validate the size of the Kittitas Urban Growth Area?

The County will review previous studies, identify gaps, and develop recommendations to retain or contract the current UGA boundaries. The County will coordinate options and recommendations with the City of Kittitas.

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How will new land use designations be determined in County subareas?

To determine appropriate land use designations for the subareas of Vantage, Thorp, Ronald, Easton and Snoqualmie Pass, the County will consider the availability of public facilities and services (e.g. water and sewer), transportation, existing land use patterns, any documented plans for future growth, and policy options under the GMA.

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How are these subareas designated now?

Vantage, Thorp, Ronald, Easton and Snoqualmie Pass are currently designated as Urban Growth Nodes. The County's current Comprehensive Plan refers to an Urban Growth Node as "a unique feature of the planning landscape" and says that the concept of the UGN was intended to "recognize communities with urban characteristics such as established residential, commercial and industrial settlements." These designations are not allowed under the GMA, and must be revised for the County to achieve compliance.

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What land use designations are allowed?

According to the GMA, all lands within a city or county have to be designated as Urban (or UGA), Rural, or Resource lands.

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What are Urban lands?

Urban lands are those with growth and development patterns that are intensive enough to be incompatible with rural and resource uses. Urban lands encompass all cities, including rural cities and their designated expansion areas. Areas designated as UGAs must meet the following criteria:

  • Have sufficient urban land to accommodate future population/employment projections through the designated planning period
  • Be already characterized by urban growth or adjacent to such lands
  • Include existing urban land uses and densities
  • Provide a balance of industrial, commercial, and residential land uses
  • Have the anticipated financial capability to provide infrastructure and services needed over the planning period

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What are Resource lands?

Resource lands include lands that have long-term commercial significance, including agricultural, forest, and mineral resource lands.

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What are Rural lands?

Rural lands are lands where open space and the natural environment predominate over the built environment. Rural lands do not include incorporated rural towns or cities, but can include existing rural communities.

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What is a LAMIRD?

LAMIRD stands for Limited Areas of More Intense Rural Development and is a subset under the Rural land use designation. This is a designation allowed under the GMA for lands that historically (pre-1990) were developed as small towns or crossroads activity centers.

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Who will make decisions about changes to the County's Comprehensive Plan?

Ultimately, decisions about changes to the County's Comprehensive Plan are made by the Kittitas County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). The Kittitas County Planning Commission also plays a role in planning matters by making recommendations about the Comprehensive Plan to the BOCC.

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What is the public's role in the process?

The County is seeking comments from interested members of the public as it considers the issues related to Comprehensive Plan compliance. Through a proactive Public Involvement Plan, there are multiple opportunities to participate, including public workshops, email comments, web site and direct contact with the County Project Manager, Jan Ollivier.

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What happens if the County doesn't comply?

If the County doesn't make the Comprehensive Plan compliant with state law, the County is at risk of being ineligible for certain state funds. In addition, without an approved Comprehensive Plan, property owners and the public have less predictability about the future direction of the County in terms of land use and public services.

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When will the County's Comprehensive Plan be updated?

The County plans to make the current Comprehensive Plan County compliant with state law by the end of 2009. Like other counties and cities in Washington, the County must update its Comprehensive Plan every six years. This project is not a formal update; the County's next update is due in 2013.

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How is the County going to get this done before the end of the year?

The County expects recommendations by the Planning Commission in October and final adoption by the BOCC in November and early December. Prior to that, the County plans the following activities:

  • Public workshops for community members in Ronald, Easton, Snoqualmie Pass, Thorp and Vantage
  • Coordination with City of Kittitas
  • Analysis to validate or modify Plan components
  • Recommendation on consistent planning policies and population allocations by the Kittitas County Conference of Governments
  • Recommendation on enabling documents by Planning Commission
  • Adoption of enabling documents by the BOCC

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What happens after this?

Kittitas County must update its entire Comprehensive Plan in 2013. At that time, the County will update population projections, review urban growth areas, and make policy revisions that reflect the County's updated vision for the future.

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What is SEPA?

SEPA (Chapter 43.21C RCW) stands for the State Environmental Policy Act, a state policy that requires state and local agencies to consider the likely environmental consequences of a proposal before approving or denying the proposal. Any changes recommended to the Comprehensive Plan must consider environmental impacts. The County will conduct an analysis to determine any environmental impacts caused by recommended plan changes. SEPA requires that environmental assessments be made available to the public for review and comment.

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