On June 30, 2019, the Ruckelshaus Center published their findings on Washington State’s Growth Management Act which was enacted in 1990 to address growth issues within Washington State. The review was commissioned by the State Legislature in 2015 mandating an independent review of the law be done to assess impacts, successes and or issues in implementation.
The Final Report labeled “A Road Map to Washington’s Future” is 439 pages long. The first significant aspect of the report is that the Act incorporated NO mechanism to assess how the law is performing. Within the executive summary of the report it states;
The main issue we faced was the lack of a performance measurement system pertaining to assessing Washington’s GMA. Although there are indicators that have been adopted by a few jurisdictions to assess their performance, we found that they defined or interpreted the same legislative goals in a variety of ways due to the huge variations in economic, environment, demography, geography and administrative structure across jurisdictions. Furthermore, since only a few jurisdictions utilize performance measurements to assess their outcomes from their comprehensive plans, it suggests that most jurisdictions update their comprehensive plans without truly understanding their outcomes.
What is significant, is that cities and counties statewide have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in numerous comp plan updates over the past 25 years and in almost all cases, no assessment or audit of how the act was performing was ever done. Furthermore, the state, through the Dept. of Commerce and Washington State Growth Hearings Boards, have sued local jurisdiction for failure to “comply” with GMA but at the state level, no assessment of impacts or performance standards was ever put in play.
Today, when attending hearings of jurisdictional meeting, city and county staff complain about the work load of complying with GMA. At a recent meeting, staff suggested that applicants be charged with outside consultant fees for reviewing and overseeing their applications as the local staff’s time was consumed with state mandated compliance work. So the suggested solution was to charge the application fee and then assess the applicant for review and processing time by outside consultants. What ever happen to application fees covering the cost of the application?
Stay Tuned to The Sentinel. We’ll continue to review, discect and comment on the Ruckelshaus Center’s 439 page Growth Management Report (GMA) but thought the initial comments within the summary were significant enough to make note of and pass along to you.