Senate OK’s Short bill reducing planning burden on small cities

Cities of less than 25,000 would be allowed to use county critical area plans

OLYMPIA – A bill from Sen. Shelly Short, R-Addy, reducing the planning burden on small cities cleared the state Senate late Wednesday night by a unanimous 46-0 vote.

Senate Bill 5374 allows cities with less than 25,000 population to adopt county critical-area ordinances, rather than coming up with plans of their own. The rule applies if the county critical-area ordinance is not under challenge in court.

Short said the proposal originated with a legislative task force last year that considered changes to the Growth Management Act, the state’s land-use law. “For our rural areas, the Growth Management Act often seems like a square peg in a round hole,” she said. “GMA planning can be a huge burden for small cities. I see this bill as a way to reduce duplication and increase flexibility. This bill lets small cities decide whether to follow county critical area plans – if they want to develop their own plans, they can.”

The Growth Management Act covers all of Washington’s 39 counties and imposes a wide array of planning requirements on 28 of them, including adoption of a critical areas ordinance. Under current law, cities within those counties must adopt critical areas ordinances of their own. The ordinances preserve wetlands, areas that recharge underground aquifers, frequently flooded areas and geologically hazardous areas.