County planning: A better future

  • By John Koster
  • Saturday, December 17, 2005 9:00pm
  • Opinion

Responding to half-truths from a special interest group is not always the most effective way to correct the public’s perception on a complex issue, but this message will hopefully calm down readers if they had the misfortune to view the diatribe from Futurewise, “Government by developers takes hold,” on last Sunday’s Forum page.

First and foremost: The Snohomish County Council is working closely with the Planning Commission and the County Executive on a final comprehensive plan. Every expansion proposal must comply with rigid environmental and growth projection standards to survive the process. Both Ray Gould and Peggy Dare know this. But apparently they need to create a villain for their organization’s fundraising. So they claim that the responsible deliberation among council members, Republican and Democrat alike, is actually encouraging irresponsible growth.

A headline that is closer to the truth is not quite as exciting: “County officials plan for a better future.” The pending update to the county’s comprehensive plan identifies areas next to our cities that will be preserved for future growth as required by law under the Growth Management Act (GMA). The GMA requires that county government work with city leaders to plan for better communities for the future. This mutual cooperation is a terrific way to be smart about the growth that is coming.

The folks who follow our growth laws – created through compromise and negotiation over many years, not just in the past few months – should reasonably expect to be able to submit a permit to use their properties. Then, county planners will consider their proposals, making sure they fit with long-range goals.

Public input on these modest changes to our current growth plan has been taken for months, beginning with last year’s docket process, a series of workshops put on by the executive, weeks of Planning Commission meetings, months of council hearings, and we have been accepting letters, e-mails and testimony all along. The fact that we are very near the end of the process with the same members of the council who were involved from the beginning is neither shocking nor inappropriate. It is the responsible thing to do.

We hope the public, especially the many people who have been directly involved in the process of crafting the updated comprehensive plan, will appreciate the balanced approach this council is taking toward accommodating the growth we will experience over the next 20 years.

We thought the season for scorched-earth political campaigns ended on election day in November, but apparently it has not. The dramatic exaggerations exhibited in the Futurewise tirade last Sunday push the limits of civil discourse. My concern is that elected officials, land developers and the entire building industry are being miscast as destroyers of our communities.

In light of the increase of arsons and vandalism at building sites and logging operations across the entire nation in recent years, perhaps Futurewise should tone down the rhetoric a bit. As advocates for the environment, its leaders can provide a valuable service for everyone by presenting accurate information and constructive criticism.

We will adopt the comprehensive plan on Wednesday. Get the truth about the 10-year comprehensive plan update at

John Koster, a Republican, is vice chair of the Snohomish County Council.

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