Northwest NEWS

June 29, 1998

Local News

Sims says focus more growth in cities

   by Woodinville Weekly staff

   SEATTLE--King County Executive Ron Sims said growth management has turned the tide on sprawl, but the county is growing faster than anticipated.
   To react to that, he introduced his "Smart Growth Initiative" last week, a series of ordinances which would direct new growth where roads and other services will be, namely the urban cities of the county.
   Sims proposes that new housing and businesses be closer to transit stations to encourage people to use mass transportation. Already the county and Redmond are investigating building in the "air rights" of the Overlake Park and Ride site. And Sims' and Seattle Mayor Paul Schell's administrations have been discussing the creation of a new mixed-use development in the north lot of the Kingdome.
   Sims' plan came after projections showed that 20-year county housing targets will be met in under half the time.
   "While our growth management policies have been working, King County has been growing faster than we anticipated," Sims said. "We are, in some areas, nearing our growth targets 10 years early."
   According to the county, since the comprehensive plan was adopted in 1994, 91 percent of all growth has occurred in the urban growth areas; nine percent of growth has occurred in rural areas.
   Urban and rural areas are those places on either side of the so-called urban growth line, an imaginary line that stretches generally north-south separating areas zoned for more housing or businesses from areas more rural in character. In Woodinville, the effects of that line can be seen clearly on the industrial western side of the Sammamish River and the agricultural eastern side of the valley.
   Planning has reduced the rate of growth in rural areas from 15 percent of the total to under nine percent in 1997, Sims said. He said the goal for rural areas is four percent.
   But the economic boom continues.
   Sims said he will be sending several growth/transportation bills to the County Council.
   Among them is a concurrency ordinance increasing road standards needed before new development is approved, and another measure that would prevent road improvement funds from being tied up in projects that have hit environmental or other roadblocks.
   Sims also proposes increasing urban property owners densities through the transfer of development rights program. Landowners in rural areas could be paid not to sell off their land, instead selling development credits to people in cities.
   Sims vowed not to adjust the urban growth line. "While I am the Executive, we will not expand the urban growth area."
   He will introduce the package to the County Council this week.