Growth Management vs. Quality of Life

By Martha M. Ireland

June 22, 2001 - Brian Derdowski will be in Port Townsend to discuss “Growth Management—Protecting Your Quality of Life,” June 26. (The same evening as Robin Hill Farm’s grand opening, so I won’t be there.)

Derdowski served on the King County Council when I was on the Clallam County Commission. We attended many meetings together, including, I believe, a May 30, 1997 workshop on county finances, sponsored by the Washington State Association of Counties.

Luncheon speaker Richard Ford, a primary architect of the state Growth Management Act [GMA], opened his remarks by saying, "I know how to make problems, but solve none of them." He repeatedly boasted of that skill throughout his speech.

At that time, Ford was chair of the King County Executive's Task Force on County Finances and of the State Growth Strategies Commission. He described himself as a 200-dollar-an-hour Seattle attorney.

What "quality of life" was Ford advocating for you under the GMA?

"Reduce expectations," Ford told county officials. He suggested "rural service like back in the '50s or even the '30s or get a new revenue source."

Simply put, the GMA undermined traditional county finances so you deserve poor roads, reduced police and fire protection, few parks, and no social service programs targeting prevention or juvenile rehabilitation.

People who want what the GMA considers to be "urban services" should live on Queen Anne Hill, as Ford does, he declared.

Now comes Mr. Derdowski to assist the Jefferson County land preservation organization, People for a Livable Community, in promoting the GMA on the Peninsula.

Derdowski represented the more rural part of King County--a constituency that perceives the GMA as protecting them from unwanted development, despite its ruinous effect on King County finances.

Likewise, some Sequimites perceive the GMA as supporting their objections to a rezone that threatens the rural feel of their in-city neighborhood.

In truth, the in-city rurality they are trying to preserve is anathema to GMA philosophy.

GMA wants incorporated areas developed at urban densities and fully connected to city water and sewer. The proposed four or five homes per acre--which the neighbors think is too dense--is too sprawling to suit GMA tenets.

Residents on the east side of Port Angeles who object to annexation are in a similar conflict with GMA creed. Land inside an Urban Growth Boundary should be inside the city, hooked to city power, water and sewer, and ready to have more and more homes shoehorned in, according to GMA doctrine.

GMA dogma sees dense growth and no growth as the only options. Anything in-between is undesirable. Get your "rural feel" by taking a drive out into the country.

As for local self-determination, the GMA empowered an appointed board to overturn the decisions of democratically elected local officials. Forget whatever you and the majority of your neighbors want. Your overlords decide what is best.

Regrettably, GMA-preferred urban densities—up to 400 dwelling units or more per acre in high-rises—generate high crime rates and more demands for social services, while GMA economic policies impoverish rural areas.

But then, as GMA-architect Richard Ford said, he only knows how to make problems, and solve none of them.

Good business, I suppose, for a 200-dollar-an-hour Seattle lawyer.


This column ran in the Peninsula Daily News.  Martha Ireland is a former Clallam County Commissioner and journalist.

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