Comprehensive Growth Management Plan
On Nov. 12, 2019, the Clark County Council approved Ordinance 2019-11-16, adopting amendments to the Clark County 20-year Comprehensive Growth Management Plan 2015-2035 map, zoning map, comprehensive plan text, arterial atlas map, and Clark County Code Title 40 to remove authorization for and all references to the Rural Industrial Land Bank.
During the 2016 Plan update, the county designated approximately 600 acres of what was agricultural land to be Employment Center with a light industrial zoning and Rural Industrial Land Bank overlay. The action was found non-compliant by the Growth Management Hearings Board and that decision was affirmed by the Washington Court of Appeals. The county decided not to appeal that decision and the property has now been reverted back to an agricultural designation with 20-acre minimum lot size.
For more information about the legal process of this and other comprehensive plan appeal actions, please use the links below.
Shortcut to info on Comprehensive Plan appeals
About the Comprehensive Plan
Comprehensive plans are long-range policy guides for how a jurisdiction plans to manage growth and development with respect to the natural environment and available resources. Washington state law (36.70A.040 RCW) requires jurisdictions operating under the Growth Management Act (GMA) to develop and implement comprehensive plans and development regulations consistent with their respective comprehensive plans (36.70A RCW).
Clark County's comprehensive plan consists of a set of policies and maps meant to accommodate and guide population and employment growth in the unincorporated portion of the county over the next 20 years (2015-2035).
The current plan is the 2016 Clark County Comprehensive Growth Management Plan approved by the County Council on June 21, 2016. The adopting ordinance No. 2016-06-12 was approved on June 28, 2016 to go into effect ten (10) days after adoption as provided by law, except for school, parks, and traffic impact fees, which took effect on January 1, 2017.
Updating the Comprehensive Plan
State law also requires these plans be updated according to a schedule. The 2016 update was Clark County's implementation of the state requirement to "review and revise, if needed" the county's growth plan. The previous update was in 2007.
Less extensive revisions to the comprehensive plan are allowed on an annual basis through the annual review or plan amendment process (when requested by the public or non-county jurisdictions) and through a simultaneous county-initiated docket process.
On July 22, 2016, Friends of Clark County and Futurewise filed a petition with the Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB) for review of the comprehensive plan and development regulations update. On August 26, Clark County Citizens United filed a petition for review.
- Friends of Clark County and Futurewise Petition for Review
- Clark County Citizens United Petition for Review
The GMHB combined the two appeals, and also included the appeal of the rural industrial land bank sites that the county designated in April of 2016. The board also consolidated and grouped the issues by topic. They are listed below. The hearing before the GMHB was held on February 8, 2017.
Public Participation/Public Involvement
Issue 1: Public Participation Plan not timely adopted; and county failed to provide access to the plan update process.
Issue 2: Plan update process routinely and systematically excluded rural and resource landowners.
Private Property Rights
Issue 3: County failed to adequately consider property rights impacts of Plan Update on rural and resource land owners; and, arbitrarily and discriminatorily failed to adopt smaller parcel sizes.
Comprehensive Plan Adoption
Issue 4: County adopted Plan Update on June 21, 2016 which was fewer than 60 days after forwarding notice to the Department of Commerce in violation of WAC 365-196-630 and RCW 36.70A.106.
Issue 5: UGA Expansion by the cities of Battle Ground, La Center and Ridgefield were not needed to accommodate planned growth, and Buildable Lands Report (BLR) reasonable measures were not adopted, and created internal Comp Plan inconsistencies.
Issue 6: Urban Reserve Overlay
Issue 7: Annexation of expanded UGB territories by Ridgefield and La Center violated GMA.
Issue 8: County violated RCW 36.70A110(2) by using the medium OFM Population Projections and Buildable Lands Report which did not take into account the population influences of the Portland metro area.
Issue 9: Inclusion of remainder parcels in UGA allows them to develop.
Issue 23: The Plan Update failed to review shoreline and critical areas ordinances as required by RCW 36.70A.130.
Issue 24: Plan Update violated RCW 43.21C.031 by failing to conduct SEPA review of the Growing Healthier Report, Aging Readiness Plan, Agriculture Preservation Strategy Report, and Clark County Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan.
Issue 25: Plan Update violated RCW 43.21C.031 by failing to conduct SEPA review on 3,500 acres of rural lands which had been remnants of the county’s 1994 agriculture/forest zone.
Rural and Resource Lands
Issue 10: De-designation of agricultural lands for the cities of La Center and Ridgefield violated GMA.
Issue 11: The AG-20 to AG-10 and FR-40 to FR-20 changes failed to conserve farm and forestland, protect the quantity and quality of ground water and were inconsistent with the comp plan.
Issue 12: The agricultural and forest lands designations in the Plan Update were unlawful, and improperly relied on Issue Paper 9.
Issue 13: Plan Update violated GMA when it failed to provide a variety of rural densities in the comp. plan.
Issue 14: Plan Update violates GMA and case law by using a rural vacant buildable lands model to cap rural growth.
Issue 15: Plan Update violated GMA, when it failed to create R-1 and R-2.5 zoning districts because it disregarded and misapplied predominant parcel size, density, and rural character.
Issue 16: Plan Update violated GMA, when it relied on projection that split the future 20-year population growth at 90% urban and 10% rural. The county should have used the historical population split of 85% urban and 15% rural.
Rural Industrial Land Bank
Issue 17: County missed the deadline for establishing a rural industrial land bank.
Issue 18: The county made procedural and substantive errors in rural industrial land bank designation.
Issue 19: De-designating agricultural land for the rural industrial land bank violated GMA by failing to meet RCW 36.70A.060 and WAC 365-190-050. The RILB lands continue to be agricultural lands of long-term commercial significance.
Challenges to Specific Elements of the 2016 Plan Update
Issue 20: The county violated RCW 36.70A.070 when it adopted a 20-year transportation facility plan with a deficit of $158 million.
Issue 21: The Plan Update violated RCW 36.70A.070 because its capital facilities plan did not include all GMA requirements.
Issue 22: The Plan Update violated GMA by amending countywide planning policies (CPP) and the community framework plan (CFP), without adopting a process to amend or update the CPPs or CFP, or holding a public hearing.
On March 23, 2017, the GMHB issued their Final Decision and Order, which can be downloaded below. On March 29, planning and legal staff had a work session with the County Council to review the decision.
- Growth Management Hearings Board - Final Decision and Order (March 23, 2017)
- Presentation to BOCC on Final Decision and Order (March 29, 2017)
The GMHB ruled on March 23, 2017 that certain portions of the 2016 plan update had not complied with certain requirements of GMA. Those issues in which the county isn’t compliant were remanded back to the county to be addressed. The county appealed the decisions on the expansion of the Ridgefield and La Center urban growth areas (Issue 5) and the re-designation of rural industrial land bank lands from agriculture to light industrial (Issue 19). The county did not appeal Issues 6, 11, 13, and 18 and moved forward with the process to make the changes related to those issues in order to come into compliance.
The process to make those changes included Planning Commission review, first at a work session on May 4, 2017 and then deliberating and providing a recommendation to the county council at a hearing on May 18, 2017. Meeting materials are posted on the Planning Commission's meetings page under the May 18 date.
County Council Actions
The County Council then held a work session on the proposed changes with the Planning Commission recommendations on June 7, 2017. They held a hearing and took formal action on the changes on June 20, 2017. Meeting materials for these two June meetings are posted on the Councilor's Grid.
- On July 11, 2017, the Council approved Ordinance No. 2017-07-04 adopting the amendments related to Issues, 6, 11, 13, and 18.
- On Dec. 18, 2018, Clark County Council adopted Interim Emergency Ordinance No. 2018-12-64 that placed a limited moratorium on applications to develop lands within the Rural Industrial Land Bank Overlay. On February 12, 2019, the Council extended the moratorium to August 12, 2019.
- On Apr. 16, 2019, Council adopted Interim Ordinance No. 2019-04-02 re-enacting the city of Ridgefield and La Center urban growth areas as adopted in the Clark County Comprehensive Growth Management Plan 2015-2035. On June 4, 2019, Council voted to extend Interim Ordinance No. 2019-04-02 for another six months.
On Aug. 20, 2019, the Washington State Court of Appeals filed their decision which reviewed the expansion of the urban growth boundaries surrounding the cities of La Center and Ridgefield and the Rural Industrial Land Bank. The court upheld the county position that land annexed into the cities of Ridgefield and La Center could not be challenged under the GMA. The court decision also upheld the Washington Growth Management Hearings Board ruling that a portion of the 2016 Plan, related to the Rural Industrial Land Bank was out of compliance with the state’s Growth Management Act.
- Washington State Court of Appeals Decision (August 20, 2019)
County Council Actions
The Clark County Council has decided to not file an appeal of the Court of Appeals decision. The county will move forward with reverting the Rural Industrial Land Bank back to an agricultural designation with 20-acre minimum lot size. Please visit the Rural Industrial Land Bank webpage for more information about that process.