Protections for local governments, rural landowners pass House

Editors: An audio file from Kretz's KUOW radio interview on House Bill 1094 can be located here.

Kretz's bill to allow four counties to opt out of costly land-use regulations now heads to Senate

After watching the situation in Ferry County with regard to following the state's Growth Management Act (GMA) along with all of the land-use and planning provisions in the Act, Deputy Republican Leader Rep. Joel Kretz introduced House Bill 1094. The measure passed the House near midnight on March 4 by a vote of 69-28.

The GMA is the comprehensive land-use planning framework for county and city governments in Washington. Enacted in 1990 and 1991, the GMA establishes numerous requirements for local governments obligated by mandate or choice to fully plan under the GMA, and a reduced number of directives for all other counties and cities.

House Bill 1094 was narrowly written to allow only four counties that voluntarily opted into the GMA, and subsequent land-use planning processes, to opt-out of the program. The only counties impacted by the measure would be Ferry, Pend Oreille, Columbia and Garfield.

“All four counties would still be able to work under the GMA if they so choose, but my legislation would allow them the option to say 'no thanks' to the directives in the act,” said Kretz, R-Wauconda. “This is a good bill that would offer some relief to local governments and rural landowners. Having followed the issues with GMA and its impacts on Ferry County, I felt something needed to be done. Because Ferry County is almost all protected and tribal land, the GMA model is incredibly costly and just doesn't fit the needs of the area.”

According to the manager of the Ferry County Conservation District, Ferry County only has 298,340 acres of privately-owned land. Of the private land, very little is farmland. Because of the rugged nature of the district, the majority of private property is range land, rivers, lakes and mountain peaks. The remaining 1,128,646 acres in the county consists of 29,735 acres of state land, 493,152 acres of federal land and 605,759 acres are controlled by tribal governments.

Kretz added that despite Ferry County having mostly undevelopable land, it has been sued more times than King County by environmental groups, like Futurewise, under the guise of protecting farmland.

“I won't lie, I took some hits from radical environmentalists on this bill, but the key to the bill moving through the House was educating my urban counterparts about the realities of places like Ferry County,” Kretz said. “When presented with the facts, many of my Democrat colleagues sided with the folks in the counties my bill helps. The fight isn't over yet, though. I will continue to watch and work the bill as it moves through the Senate.”

One thing that continues to concern Kretz is that Okanogan County is currently updating its Comprehensive Plan under the GMA. Futurewise, the group continuing to sue Ferry County, has recently filed a Freedom of Information Act request to acquire documents related to the work on the Plan.

“Small counties that are trying to pay for critical services can't afford expensive litigation to defend against downtown Seattle interests,” Kretz explained. “I am worried Okanogan County will see the same fate as Ferry County under the GMA process.”

Kretz said he could not have gotten the bill this far without the support of Ferry County residents and others in struggling parts of the state.

House Bill 1094 will now head to the Senate where it will receive public hearings and further consideration.

CONTACT: Bobbi Cussins, Public Information Officer: (360) 786-7252

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov