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Ellensburg, WA 98926-2887
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Kittitas (pronounced 'KITT-i-tass') County is located in central Washington
State. It spans from the lush forested Cascade Mountains to the upper Yakima River Valley plains and
the Columbia River.
Process | Timeline
Meetings | Materials
Reports | Analyses
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?
The purpose of this project is to achieve compliance with the GMA.
Top of page
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.
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.
The Eastern Washington Growth Management Hearings
(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
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.
The County is out of compliance with regard to certain provisions of the GMA including:
To meet the requirements of state law, the County must:
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.
The County will review previous studies, identify gaps, and develop recommendations to retain or contract
UGA boundaries. The County will coordinate options and recommendations with the City
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
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.
According to the GMA, all lands within a city or county have to be designated as
UGA), Rural, or Resource 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:
Resource lands include lands that have long-term commercial significance, including agricultural, forest,
and mineral resource 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Kittitas County has a total area of 2,333 square miles. The highest point in the county is Mount Daniel at 7,959 feet above sea level.