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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.
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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 and zoning be determined in County rural areas?
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 mid-September 2012?
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. Over the lasts
few years, the County has amended the Comprehensive Plan to comply with the
decision by the EWGMHB. The EWGMHB issued an
Order Following Remand from Washington State Supreme Court in matters 07-1-0004c
and 07-1-0015 dated November 7th of 2011, finding the County's Comprehensive Plan and Development Regulations
to be in compliance for some issues and continued noncompliance and invalidity
for other issues.
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:
Case No. 07-1-0004c
Case No. 07-1-0015
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
In order to determine and evaluate potential amendments to the land use
designations and "Rural Element" of the Comprehensive Plan and the County's
zoning map and development regulations for rural development, it must first be
determined what is "rural character" and "rural development" in the context of
Kittitas County. To do this, existing and past land use patterns and landscapes
need to be assessed, issues necessary to protect or enhance "rural" in Kittitas
County should be identified, and change that is occurring to rural land uses
must be analyzed.
In order to fulfill these actions, County staff have identified
twelve subareas in the "rural" area of the County as having
unique, similar character.
Features such as road maintenance districts, water availability, physical
separators (such as rivers and I-90), geologic character and similarity of land
uses were considered in defining these subareas. The areas are identified only
for purposes of this GMA compliance project, and have not been officially
adopted by any County action.
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 compliance. Through a
proactive Public Involvement Plan, there are multiple opportunities
participate, including public workshops,
email comments, web site and direct contact with the
County Planning Official, Robert "Doc" Hansen.
If the County doesn't make the Comprehensive Plan and Development
Regulations 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 and Development Regulation compliant with state
law by mid-September 2012. Like other counties and cities in Washington, the County must update its
Comprehensive Plan. This project is not a formal update. The County's next update is due on or before
June 30, 2017, and every eight years thereafter.
The County expects recommendations by the Planning Commission in August and final adoption by the BOCC
September. Prior to that, the County plans the following activities:
Kittitas County must update its entire Comprehensive Plan in 2017. 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.