In 2006 Benton County updated its comprehensive plan as mandated, to comply with the Washington State Growth Management Act (RCW 36.70A). Subsequent updates to the County's Comprehensive Plan are scheduled to occur every seven years hereafter.What is the Growth Management Act (GMA)? What is the Comprehensive Plan?
The Washington State Growth Management Act was adopted by the Legislature in 1990. The GMA requires state and local governments to manage Washington’s growth by identifying and protecting critical areas and natural resource lands, designating urban growth areas, preparing comprehensive plans and implementing them through capital investments and development regulations.
Rather than centralize planning and decision-making at the state level, the GMA built on Washington’s strong traditions of local government control and regional diversity. The GMA established state goals, set deadlines for compliance, offers direction on how to prepare local comprehensive plans and regulations and set forth requirements for early and continuous public participation. Within the framework provided by the mandates of the Act, local governments have many choices regarding the specific content of comprehensive plans and implementing development regulations.
The Growth Management Hearings Board hears and determines allegations that a government agency has not complied with the GMA or the related Shoreline Management Act (SMA, Chapter 90.58 RCW). A 1991 law amended the GMA to create three regional boards, but a 2010 law consolidated them into one. SMA jurisdiction was added in 1996. The board's administrative rules of practice and procedure are found in the Washington Administrative Code (Title 242-02 WAC). For more information visit the GMA info-page.
Benton County's Comprehensive Plan is the official statement adopted by the Benton County Board of Commissioners (Board) setting forth goals and policies to protect the health, welfare, safety and quality of life of Benton County's residents. At the local level, the fundamental purpose of the Plan is to manage growth and land use in order to sustain and enhance the quality of life for county residents, as that quality is defined by the residents themselves via the public process. The Plan expresses a long-range vision of how citizens want their rural community to look and function in the future. The plan helps to focus, coordinate and direct the many diverse activities of County departments by providing a comprehensive and common vision.
What are development regulations?
Development regulations are controls placed on the development and use of land. They include zoning districts that reflect the land use designations on the Land Use Map in the Land Use Element within the plan, and regulations to protect the public health, safety and welfare, i.e., short plat and subdivision ordinances, agriculture, mineral resource, and shoreline ordinances, sensitive environmental resources, i.e., critical areas that are specifically; wetlands, streams, aquifer recharge areas, fish and wildlife habitats, frequently flooded areas, and geological hazards. Development regulations are used to carry out the goals and policies of the Comprehensive Plan.
Update vs. Amendment
"Update" and "amendment" are two distinct terms under GMA. "Update" means to review and revise, if needed, the comprehensive plan and development regulations for compliance with GMA at least once every seven years. "Amendment" generally refers to the routine annual process of amending the plan in response to applications for amendments submitted by citizen parties of interest or County department heads, or in response to direction from the Board or Planning Commission. Applications for the 2014 round of amendments to the Comprehensive Plan or regulations must be submitted to Benton County by December 1, 2013.
How can citizens get involved?
Opportunities for public involvement will be provided throughout the planning amendment program to encourage early and continuous public participation. Citizens are encouraged to actively participate in the project by attending advertised public meetings, workshops, and hearings of the Planning Commission and Benton County Board of Commissioners, visiting Benton County's web site, or by contacting planning staff.