In the next few years, Clark County and its cities will be updating their comprehensive plans, establishing a road map for growth for the next decade. These comprehensive plan updates will be happening across the state in the most populous counties and cities. Currently the existing plans do not adequately address our affordable housing crisis and climate change specifically is not a consideration at all.
We can’t wait another decade for the next planning updates to take action on today’s biggest challenges. We are now working with the FutureWIse Washington Can’t Wait campaign to build a broad movement of activists across Washington who will insist that our legislature update the Growth Management Act in the 2021 session and ensure that our comprehensive plans secure an equitable, sustainable future for Washingtonians and our natural environment.
Legislative priorities include updating the Growth Management Act in the 2021 to:
Ensure that cities and counties are planning for the climate crisis,
Make our urban areas affordable and accessible to all through bold affordable housing policy, and
Address racial and economic injustice by achieving environmental justice in our communities.
No need to drive two hours to Olympia to testify on a bill. The online venue makes public engagement more accessible than ever. Here is an example of how to sign up and get information. Follow this link to SB 5042, a bill that seeks to close the early vesting loophole by delaying implementation of major Growth Management changes by local government:
On the right column, you can click to sign up to comment on the bill. There you will fill in a form and indicate if you are submitting written information or would like to testify remotely. If you sign up to testify you, an automatically generated zoom link will be emailed to you. One hour prior to the hearing you will even be sent a reminder. Once on the zoom call, you can watch the committee meeting. When it is time for you to testify, the staff will enable you to open your video and microphone and you will be able to interact with legislative committee members.
SB 5042’s first public hearing was Jan. 12th at 8:00 am. Needless to say, online is way more accessible than getting up at 5 am to travel to Olympia. Give it a try with a bill of your choice. Also, check out FutureWise legislative campaign, Washington Can’t Wait.
SB 5042 Closing the Early Vesting Loophole
Early vesting of comprehensive plans is a loophole that allows local jurisdictions to expand urban growth boundaries and subdivide farm and forest resource lands, even when the plan violates the Growth Management Act.
This is how it works. Once a county adopts or updates their comprehensive plan – and before there is a finding of legality by the Growth Management Hearings Board when an appeal has been flied – cities can immediately annex these expansion areas and developers can apply to subdivide land if it has been up-zoned. If the Hearings Board finds that the Comp Plan violates the law, there is no correction. The development proceeds.
Early vesting has led to the unnecessary conversion of a significant amount of agricultural land in Clark County over the past 15 years.
The 2016 annexations of Ridgefield and LaCenter included 167 acres of agricultural land that the Hearings Board concluded met the criteria for agricultural land of long-term commercial significance. The cities quickly annexed the growth expansions to take advantage of the early vesting and rendered the appeal moot with no remedy for the loss of farmland.
During the near eight month lag between the county’s adoption of the 2016 comprehensive plan and the final determination by the Hearings Board, over 2,000 acres of farmland were subdivided as a result of an up-zone from AG-20 to AG -10. This decision was made despite an outcry from local farmers. Again, the Hearings Board determined that this up-zoning was a threat to agricultural land of long-term commercial significance. And again, there was no remedy to reverse the further parcellization of farmland.
There were still vested projects being allowed to proceed some two years after the Hearings Board’s ruling against the AG-10 zoning.
SB 5042 will close the early vesting loophole by delaying the effective date of implementation of comprehensive plan updates until the Hearings board makes an initial finding of validity. The bill is currently in the Senate Committee on Housing and Local Government and a first hearing was held on Jan. 12th.
Contact your legislators and committee members (including Sen. Annette Cleveland) and request they vote to close this loophole of early vesting in order to prevent further premature and unnecessary loss for working farms and forests.
They hired a consultant and a staff member to do this. Their proposal was presented on Nov 23. It was excellent. The Columbian covered it.
At a minimum, we need to stop making the problems worse. We make the problem worse by permitting new developments to be heated with fossil fuels such as fossil gas, and by allowing sprawl.
Readers are encouraged to receive Don’s free newsletter called Climate Action of Southwest Washington. Contact: Don Steinke crVancouverUSA@gmail.com
About Neighborhood Associations
Clark County recognizes the value of neighborhood associations and of working with residents to build community. Indeed, neighborhood associations are a cornerstone to fulfill the county’s duty under the Growth Management Act to provide early and continuous public participation in land use decision. Clark County has offered various services to neighborhoods since 1991, and established the Neighborhood Outreach Program in August 1996, to serve those living in unincorporated Clark County.In our busy lives, we often overlook the value and benefits of our local neighborhood association and assume that a neighborhood association only exists in an urban environment. But there are nearly 30 associations in unincorporated parts of the County, and many that have existed for a decade or longer.
Your neighborhood association has defined geographic boundaries, is required to meet certain administrative guidelines as part of the Clark County Neighborhood Outreach Program and holds at least one meeting a meeting a year.
Historically neighbors have come together to shape the areas in which they live. By forming neighborhood associations, citizens work in partnership with their local governments to maintain or enhance the livability of their communities. Volunteering to help can be as easy as delivering meeting notices and newsletters or helping to identify projects that can improve your community. Simply suggesting a topic of community interest for a future meeting is often helpful.
Neighborhood associations can offer forums for a full range of topics from local crime activity, to proposed development activity, to traffic issues – or even a single topic such as one of those “What To Do About?” issues. Help and assistance are always available from the Clark County Neighborhood Program Coordinator, Marilee McCall. The County Neighborhood Program offers an open and accessible forum for connecting with local government on issues that impact our neighborhoods.
WONDERING HOW TO FIND YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION?
It’s easy to identify your neighborhood association, and if it’s active or not. Due to the COVID pandemic, many of the nearly 30 associations have temporarily halted public meetings or even newsletter communications, but normally still have regularly scheduled communications with residents. To find your association, click on this link https://clark.wa.gov/county-manager/neighborhood-association-directory and follow the instructions, which include an interactive map. By following those instructions, you will land on a page specific to your neighborhood association. This page tells you about the association and gives you contact information.
If you already know your neighborhood association’s name, the web page gives a list of associations and contact information. You can simply scroll down the list and connect with whom ever is identified as the person to contact.
For more information about the county neighborhood associations contact:
Marilee McCall, Clark County Neighborhood Program Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org
FRIENDS OF CLARK COUNTY VISION
We envision a flourishing Clark County thriving with local farms, healthy forests, clean water, protected wildlife habitats and neighborhoods that are vibrant and diverse with parks and natural areas accessible to all.