Environmentalists appeal county’s ’16 update to growth plan

Groups say plan has 12 violations of management act

By Katie Gillespie, Columbian Education Reporter

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Friends of Clark County and Futurewise challenge

Friends of Clark County and Futurewise have challenged Clark County's Comprehensive Growth Management Plan update.

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Two environmental groups filed an appeal on Friday to Clark County’s 2016 growth plan update with the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board.

The challenge, filed by Friends of Clark County and Seattle group Futurewise, alleges that the 2016 Comprehensive Growth Management Plan Update contains 12 growth management act violations. Clark County adopted its growth plan update last month after about three years of work on the plan that was marred by controversy.

Among the organizations’ complaints are:

• That expanding the urban growth areas of Battle Ground, La Center and Ridgefield was not needed to accommodate future population growth.

• That expanding the La Center and Ridgefield urban growth areas removed agriculture land of “long-term commercial significance.”

• That shrinking the minimum lot size of agricultural lots from 20 acres to 10 acres and of forest lots from 40 acres to 20 acres fails to “conserve farm and forest land” and “protect the quality and quantity of groundwater.”

• That the county knowingly adopted a transportation plan that includes a $158 million deficit.

“Since the passage of the Growth Management Act, Clark County has consistently allowed resource lands to be divided into smaller and smaller lots with thinner and thinner buffers and more and more residential development,” said David McDonald, a land-use attorney representing Friends of Clark County. “This suit seeks, in part, to reverse that trend so that resource lands remain in the sizes necessary to perpetuate the resource activity.”

Clark County Deputy Prosecutor Christine Cook said the county had not been served with a copy of the petition as of early Friday afternoon, and was therefore unable to comment.

The Western Washington Growth Hearings Board has 180 days from Friday to issue a final decision on the plan update, according to its website. If the hearings board finds the plan out of compliance with the Growth Management Act, it could be sent back for Clark County to make changes.

It’s standard that Comprehensive Growth Management Plan updates face a number of challenges, so this is likely to be the first of several. Appeals to the 2007 plan didn’t end until 2014, Community Planning Director Oliver Orjiako said last month.

Clark County Citizens United, which prefers smaller rural lots and opposes Friends of Clark County, also intends to file a challenge, according to the organization’s Facebook page.