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Senate Panel Considers Bill To Dismantle Gma

The following correction ran March 23, 1995, on page B4, with the headline: Story mentions wrong legislation: The Associated Press erroneously reported Tuesday that a bill on growth management on which numerous people testified before the Senate Ecology and Parks Committee was HB1274, described as a bill that would hobble Washington’s 5-year-old Growth Management Act. The bill on which the speakers were testifying was HB1724 which would streamline environmental regulations applied under the act. Lobbyists for business said they largely favored HB1724. Lobbyists for cities, counties and others said they liked some elements of HB1724 and not others. HB1274 has yet to receive a Senate committee hearing.

A bill that would hobble Washington’s 5-year-old Growth Management Act won hearty praise Tuesday from business people during a hearing before the Senate Ecology and Parks Committee.

HB1274, passed by the House last week, would greatly restrict state control over landuse planning.

It would allow any county to opt out of the act, essentially making the law voluntary. It also would expand the amount of rural land available for development and weaken the state boards that enforce the law.

Planning control needs to return to local government, which can do a better job than the state, said Rep. Bill Reams, R-Bellevue, the bill’s sponsor.

“I think it is a well-constructed bill, and I think it is supported across many segments of our society. I am very optimistic that we can make this bill go,” Reams said.

Sally Clark, a representative for Weyerhaeuser Co., told the panel that “months and years would be saved” in the local permit process if the bill becomes law.

“The local permit process is long and drawn out for citizens and local government,” Clark said.

Chris Leman, representing the Coalition of Washington Communities, called the bill a “remarkable achievement.”

“If you have such a range of people supporting this legislation, maybe you should grab it and pass it,” Leman said.But Sen. Dan McDonald, R-Bellevue, said the bill is not a done deal.”The Legislature listens to a lot of different people, not just you people who say you agree on this bill,” McDonald said.

HB1274 is a major element of the Republican-dominated House’s push to loosen land regulation. The House already has sent to the Senate Initiative 164 requiring governments to compensate property owners for land value lost to regulation. The initiative will go to voters in November if the Legislature fails to pass it.

The bill would:

Curtail the state law’s power to override local zoning and building regulations now in place.

Allow counties to establish big industrial areas outside of urban growth areas if the county can show that there is not enough suitable space in the urban area or can show a commercial need to put the development in the countryside, such as a need to be near farming, mining or forestry activity.

Curtail the power of the three regional planning boards to make judgements on whether a county has met the requirements of the law.

Take effect retroactively to July 1, 1990.

The Growth Management Act, which became law in 1990 over the bitter opposition of developers and the real estate industry, is intended to slow urban sprawl and protect forest and farmland from development, among other things.

It has drawn lawsuits and debate in several counties, where foes contend it contends to state confiscation of private property.