Local Government Committee tours NCW for firsthand look at growth management and housing issues
Dear Friends and Neighbors: Last month I was fortunate enough to host the House of Representatives Local Government Committee in North Central Washington.
When the Legislature adjourns, the committees legislators serve on will often hold meetings or committee work tours around the state to get a firsthand look at the priority issues the committee wants to address.
As the lead Republican on the House Local Government Committee, it was an honor to have legislators from the House committee visit our district.
Our region has examples of land use issues we are dealing with right now that make it difficult to manage growth on a local level.
Legislators and staff were able to look at Limited Areas of More Intensive Rural Development or LAMIRDs, riparian access along with the Voluntary Steward Program, and annexations.
Our first stop on the tour was in Malaga to look at the new Microsoft Data Center sites. The 102.5 acre site is the single largest investment in Chelan County. It adds $3 billion in new assessed value and adds 450 new family wage jobs. However, the project was put at risk because of how difficult it is to make zoning changes, specifically a LAMIRD. We need to provide more flexibility to our local governments in our zoning and LAMIRD areas. Otherwise our counties and cities run the risk of missing out on critical development such as data centers.
Rep. Goehner addresses legislators and local government officials in Malaga, the site of new data centers.
Voluntary Stewardship Program
Our tour also included a stop in the Mission Creek area south of Cashmere. We were able to see how some of the fruit growers in a riparian area utilize the Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP). It allows for an alternative, incentive-based approach for counties to address fundamental goals of the state’s Growth Management Act (GMA). Farmers are the best environmentalists. They have incentive to protect and preserve the soil, water and air that sustains and increases their livelihood.
Local government tour in Miller Orchards outside of Cashmere.
GMA challenges facing small cities
An important part of the tour focused on the growth management challenges facing some of the small cities in Chelan County. We met with Cashmere Mayor Jim Fletch and Leavenworth Mayor Carl Florea to hear firsthand the issues their communities are facing with the GMA and other zoning rules or regulations. I am hopeful those who participated in the tour were able to gain an understanding of those challenges.
Cashmere Mayor Jim Fletcher and Leavenworth Mayor Carl Florea with other local elected officials and legislators from the Local Government Committee.
Over the years, the Legislature has passed bills related to the Growth Management Act (GMA) and zoning requirements laying on incremental changes. However, it has layered on more laws that control property uses without consideration of how difficult it is for local governments to plan for growth and allow them to be the decision-makers for their future communities. Unfortunately, that has not happened and constructive changes to the GMA and land use laws have been rejected.
The tour ended in Plain. If you haven’t been there you are missing out. It is a very unique place. However, they are also facing challenges as about 40-50 houses a year are being built in the area, but because of zoning regulations and rules, no services or infrastructure are being constructed. For most services, doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping etc. folks have to go to Leavenworth.
The community wants to invest in necessary infrastructure improvements while finding a balance to maintain their commitment to preserve their natural surroundings. Unfortunately, sustainable growth and economic diversification is not realistic under their current land use plan.
Our district is not unique to the challenges it is facing. I am hopeful that the other elected officials can relate to things happening in their districts or communities. We can make effective changes that will protect our natural areas while still providing essential services if we take a common sense approach to these issues.
Following your state government
Please continue to contact me with any questions or concerns related to state government. I appreciate your input and feedback.
The websites below may be helpful to follow what is happening and how you can be involved in the process.
- The Ledger – a legislative news aggregator
- Capitol Buzz – Daily news clips
- How you can be involved in the legislative process
It is an honor to serve the 12th District.