Governor appoints Gadbaw to Western WA Growth Hearings Board



Gov. Gary Locke has appointed former Olympia City Councilwoman Holly Gadbaw to the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board.
Gadbaw replaces Les Eldridge, the former Thurston County commissioner who retired from the $88,000-a-year post at the end of 2002.

The three-member board has an active caseload of about 38 cases at any given time from all counties in Western Washington except Pierce, King, Kitsap and Snohomish.

With her appointment to the quasi-judicial board, Gadbaw leaves behind a planning job with the state Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development where she helped cities and counties implement the 1990 state Growth Management Act for the past 12 years.

For many of her 19 years on the City Council, she was involved in implementing the law at the local government level.

"My experience has prepared me for this job," she said. "It gives me a chance to look at growth management in another way."

"I think she's a natural for the position," former Olympia Mayor Bob Jacobs said. "She's a strong advocate for growth management."

Gadbaw had to recuse herself from one of the first cases filed with the board this year.

Friends of the Waterfront, a citizens group organized in part by Jacobs, wants the board to reverse a City Council vote last year that doubled the allowed height of buildings -- to 70 feet from the previous 35 feet -- in the city's urban waterfront zoning district.

While Gadbaw had left the council prior to the vote, she had voiced support for the zoning change.

There are three growth management hearings boards in the state to hear appeals of city and county growth management decisions.

Several state senators have offered a bill in the 2003 state Legislature -- Senate Bill 5282 -- to abolish the boards and send the cases instead to county superior courts.

The act as written gives the board members too much power, suggested state Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch and a co-sponsor of the bill.

"They are not elected officials -- they are not even confirmed by the Senate," he said.

"The issues seem to drag on forever," Sheldon said. "In a lot of cases you would get a quicker, more definitive result from the courts."

Not so, said Tim Trohimovich, planning director for 1000 Friends of Washington, an anti-sprawl, pro-growth management group.

"The boards are cost effective, more knowledgeable and more accessible to the public than the courts," he said. "And they publish their decisions, unlike the courts."

He said the superior courts are already overloaded with criminal and civil cases without taking on appeals and complaints under the Growth Management Act.

Sheldon conceded that the bill, which is similar to ones introduced in past legislative sessions, has only a slim chance of passage.

John Dodge covers the environment and energy for The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-754-5444 or by e-mail at

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