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County Needs Growth Help
By Jake Morgan, staff writer
CHEHALIS – Lewis County's largely rural and mountainous landscape poses unique challenges to urban growth planners.
County planners want to develop urban areas around Centralia, Chehalis and Napavine, preserve rural agricultural areas for farming and protect the county's abundant natural resources. If city planners don't annex in new residential areas before they are developed, the county ends up managing urban areas just outside city limits. When these lot sizes are small, they often contain failing septic tanks and contaminated water wells.
Rural land owners in Lewis County want to protect and profit from their property while having the freedom to develop it at the same time. Farmers who are looking for an additional income source from their land need to be able to know what activities are allowable, and the numerous layers of regulation and bureaucracy don't make it any easier.
Decades of intense population growth in King County spilled over to its neighboring counties and many beautiful, rural communities were forever changed. Washington State adopted the Growth Management Act in 1990 to address widespread urban sprawl into rural areas near Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia.
Uncontrolled, rapid growth creates traffic congestion and urban sprawl that eliminates open spaces, causes adverse effects on streams, wetlands and wildlife habitats, and leads to a loss of forests and farmland. Once lost, these habitats may never recover.
Urban growth has been much slower in Lewis County by comparison, and rules meant to protect the remaining open spaces near urban areas are overly restrictive when applied to rural areas nowhere near an incorporated city.
With this in mind, in 2017 the state legislature asked a public policy group called the William D. Ruckelshaus Center to create a "Road Map to Washington's Future" that will describe a desired future vision for Washington communities and identify necessary changes to the state's growth management laws, institutions and policies. The center held workshops throughout the state to collect as much input as possible. Here are three handouts from the recent workshops in Chehalis.
The Ruckelshaus Center has an online survey for people who are interested in the growth planning framework but were not able to attend one of the workshops. The project is expected to be completed by June 2019 and reports will be available to all who participated.
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