State Supreme Court Places Limits on Thurston County Growth Management

From Futurewise, we received this information:

Four years ago Thurston County adopted its 20 year blueprint for future growth and development. Unfortunately, the County’s plan failed to adequately protect water quality, prevent sprawl, conserve farmland, and comply with state law – it was because of these reasons that we filed an appeal of this plan back in 2004.

After the County lost in numerous venues along the way, choosing to appeal rather than improve its plan, this case eventually landed in front of the Supreme Court. This morning, the Supreme Court issued its final and unanimous decision on the case.

Click here to read the full Supreme Court decision.

Today the Supreme Court agreed with [Futurewise] that Thurston County’s urban growth areas (UGA) cannot be larger than needed to accommodate the county’s adopted population projection and a reasonable market factor. Further, the Court agreed that Thurston County cannot use lands outside the rural area when determining if there is a variety of rural densities. The Supreme Court also rejected the county’s arguments that Futurewise could not appeal the county’s oversized UGA or county’s failure to protect the rural areas from sprawling development.

This is indeed another victory for Thurston County residents who want to focus growth in compact urban areas in order to protect rural character, water quality & quantity, and the remaining farmland of Thurston County.

In addition to these crucial determinations, there were three other issues addressed by the court:

  • A party/person may challenge a county’s failure to revise its UGA designations after a 10 year update if the state’s population projections for the county have been updated;
  • A party/person may challenge a county’s failure to revise aspects of a comprehensive plan that are directly affected by new or recently amended GMA provisions if a petition is filed within 60 days of the plan adoption; and
  • The court remanded the case to the Board to determine whether the County used a land market supply factor when sizing its UGA and whether appropriate rural densities were included in the plan.
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