Now is Time to Tell the Planning Commission What Kind of County We Want

The organization Futurewise asks, “What kind of County does Thurston want to be?”

That’s the million dollar question that the Planning Commission is asking this Wednesday, October 17th at 7:15pm when it holds a public hearing to review the sizing of its urban growth areas (UGA).

Sure, there are thousands of answers, but when it comes to the question of how the county wants to grow, we really only have two choices: build up or build out.

Building up means we’re focusing growth in compact UGAs so that our natural spaces like the Puget Sound and rural areas are protected from sprawling development. Building out means it’s only a matter of time until those areas are paved over.

Please click here to urge the Planning Commission to choose to build up, it’s better for the Sound, our farms, and a practical way to reduce our global warming emissions.

“Global warming?” you ask? Yes, our county’s growth management policies are one of the most important ways government can address issues of global warming.


As you may know, Thurston County is in the process of fixing a variety of aspects of its 2004 Comprehensive Plan because of a successful Futurewise appeal. Now as part of that compliance process, the County has to re-examine it’s UGA, which were determined to be too big and sprawling.

So here’s where the million dollar question comes in.

To fix its UGA sizing, Thurston County can choose to raise its population target (build out) or it can change the way it grows (build up). Unfortunately, it looks like they’re doing the former; the County issued an administrative ruling saying the UGAs are right sized now because they increased the 20 year population target by adding 12,000 people.

12,000 extra people! That’s a sizeable increase for a county of 150,000 – it’s likely we’ll need road improvements, additional classrooms. Unfortunately the County has not released a new capital facilities plan that shows us how we’ll pay for the extra infrastructure needed to accommodate our new neighbors.

Having large UGAs with low densities means that we’ll have more pavement, more runoff to Puget Sound, fewer farms, forests and all of the other things that make Thurston such a great place to live. What’s worse, choosing to maintain unnecessarily large urban areas locks us in at a way of life that oozes greenhouse gas emissions as we’re forced to drive longer distances from our house to work, school, stores, and other daily needs.

It’s time to start changing the way we grow in Thurston County – if we’re serious about protecting our quality of life – now and for the future – we need to start building up.

Please click here to email the Planning Commission and ask them to reconsider this important question.

Planning Commission Hearing Wednesday, October 17 7:15 p.m. Board of County Commissioners Chambers, Room 280 Thurston County Courthouse 2000 Lakeridge Drive SW Olympia Washington
Click here for a map

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