I know, it sounds like a subject best left to professional planners, politicians, and policy wonks. But it turns out to be a really important piece that is shaping the character and landscape of Whatcom County. Perhaps more importantly it plays a role in our ability to become more resilient by preserving fertile farmland for the purpose of feeding our community with locally grown food.
In 1990, the state of Washington passed The Growth Management Act (GMA), which basically requires local governments to do land use planning, and to demonstrate how they’re going to accommodate expected population growth. Since that time Whatcom County has had what Get Whatcom Planning calls a “sordid history…of compliance with that state law.”
You can expect that County compliance with the GMA will be a big topic at the upcoming Growth and Environment Election Forum mentioned in the previous post (Aug. 1st). So it’s a good idea to get up to speed on the topic before the forum. I’m not an expert by any means on this topic, so I’m mostly going to be referring to other articles and blog posts.
A great way to ease into this topic is Riley Sweeney’s blog post, “Why is the County Breaking the Law?” Riley shares an admittedly over-simplified analogy of a school child refusing to turn in his or her homework.
Riley explains the purpose of the GMA:
The idea was that if you made the counties do their homework, they would avoid sprawling strip malls and giant condos next to what should have been rural areas. Unplanned growth leads to expensive infrastructure adjustments by the county.
For various reasons, the County has adopted plans that various Hearings Boards and courts have found to be invalid, and the County has continued to resist the findings by spending our taxpayer money ($50,000 per year – they just decided to re-up for another $40,000) on litigation…and they continue to lose.
I’ll have more articles to share next time, but until then you should pop over to the Sweeney Politics blog and take a few minutes to read that aforementioned post. It’s actually an entertaining read.
“Let’s talk about this “GMA” business”