Governor announces sanctions against Chelan County for not meeting GMA laws

OLYMPIA -- Gov. Mike Lowry today announced his decision to impose economic sanctions against Chelan County if the county does not comply with Growth Management Act (GMA) rules by the end of July.

The governor decided to move forward with sanctions after the Eastern Washington Growth Hearings Board found last year that Chelan County was not meeting the requirements of the law. The board officially recommended in February 1995 that the governor impose sanctions.

"We have worked extremely hard over the past five years to bring Chelan County into compliance with the GMA," Lowry said. "I do not like to impose sanctions, but we are left with no other alternative at this juncture. I continue to hope the county will come into compliance with the law."

If the county does not submit growth management regulations that comply with GMA rules on designations and conservation for agricultural lands by June 30, and designation and protection for critical areas by July 31, the governor will direct the state treasurer to withhold portions of revenue from the Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax, which Chelan County normally would receive.

Revenues would be taken from the county arterial preservation account and the county allocation of the motor vehicle fund, which totaled nearly $1.6 million in 1995. These accounts fund road maintenance, repair and federal grant fund matches.

However, if the county meets the deadlines, and its growth plans are found to be in compliance, the governor would not trigger sanctions, and revenues would be distributed on schedule.

"Growth management is a necessary road map for investment in our state," the governor said. "The GMA helps ensure strong economic growth while protecting our high quality of life."

In a letter to the Chelan County commissioners, Lowry said the need to go forward with sanctions was "regrettable and avoidable." He stressed, however, that the state would continue to work with the county.

"I will continue to direct the Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development to advise and assist you and your staff to meet the requirements I have imposed and to assist in any way appropriate in finalizing your integrated comprehensive plan," Lowry wrote.

The Washington State Legislature passed the GMA in 1990, requiring cities and counties to develop comprehensive growth planning strategies for future land use. Additional legislation in 1991 gave the governor authority to impose sanctions against counties that did not meet the law.

The legislature also created three regional growth management hearings boards, designed to settle disputes among private and public entities regarding growth plans. Each board has three members, one of whom must be an attorney and one who must have experience as a county- or city-elected official.

The legislature designed growth management planning to be done at the county and local levels so that plans meet local needs. The regional hearings boards are designed to settle disputes between jurisdictions and provide consistency among regions so that the state experiences balanced, consistent growth.

According to the latest available statistics from the Office of Financial Management, Washington's population from 1975-1995 grew by 1,862,010 residents, a 52 percent increase in the last 20 years. The state's population is expected to increase from an estimated 5.4 million today to 7.1 million by the year 2015.

OFM statistics show the population of Chelan County grew by nearly 20,000 residents in the last 20 years, an increase of nearly 50 percent. If the county experiences medium growth rate, its population could increase by another 21,000 residents by the 2015, or by nearly 35 percent.

"Such growth in our state is good news for the economy," the governor said. "But we must plan for that growth and not sacrifice the exceptional quality of life in Washington while we grow."

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For more information, contact the Governor's Communications Office at 360-753-6790.