No subdivisions can be built in several areas in Thurston County for at least the next six months.
The County Commission held a public hearing and voted Tuesday night to keep two areas in the Olympia urban growth area under a six-month moratorium. The county eventually will decide whether the land should be left alone, rezoned or removed from the urban growth area, said Jeremy Davis, county associate planner.
Davis said the moratorium doesn’t prohibit all development; it just ensures that subdivisions aren’t built near areas with environmental issues.
In September, the commission removed two areas comprising about 850 acres in the Tumwater urban growth area, Davis said.
The subdivision moratorium dates to a 2005 ruling by the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board that the county’s comprehensive plan and development regulations did not comply with the state’s Growth Management Act.
The county has come a long way since, with about 15 amendments over the past five years.
“The whole rural county was under moratorium in 2005; these are the last two remaining areas,” Davis said.
The French Loop/Butler Cove study area, in the northwest section of the Olympia urban growth area, was the subject of a citizen-initiated comprehensive plan and rezone request. According to the county, the downzone request is the result of “severe slope and other environmental factors” such as water quality and flooding issues. It also might be difficult to provide water and sewer utilities in the French Loop area, Davis added.
The South Olympia/Chambers Lake study area, on the southeast corner of Wiggins Road Southeast and 40th Avenue Southeast, has drainage issues, the county says. With that in mind, the county has recommended the moratorium continue for the area until a new drainage manual is adopted. The decision also falls in line with a City of Olympia decision in 2008 to “adopt low-impact residential zoning to mitigate potential flooding.”
Land in both areas could be developed at high densities if not under a moratorium, because both are currently zoned four to eight residential units per acre.
“We feel like that’s far too dense for the area,” Davis said.
Commissioners wanted to know when the studies would begin. People need to know if their property is affected, said Commissioner Sandra Romero.
Planning Director Scott Clark said the soonest he can get county workers out to the French Loop/Butler Cove area is April and that the South Olympia area would be dealt with in the fall.
The county and Olympia officials have been in discussions to resolve the issues, and both the Olympia planning commission and City Council will have their say before a recommendation is made to the county, Davis said. The county’s planning commission will study the areas and come up with its own recommendation. The Thurston Regional Planning Council also could get involved, Davis said.
Property owners with land under moratorium can ask the Planning Department for removal, but they must prove that their property doesn’t qualify to be lumped in with others with environmental issues.
For example, Davis said, there are several properties in the French Loop area that could be subdivided, but there are environmental concerns surrounding most properties in the area.
The commission also voted to reaffirm an ordinance adopting 12-month interim regulations to downzone an area northwest of Ken Lake, as well as amend the 2010-11 official docket of comprehensive-plan amendments to include an item to reconsider the existing land use and zoning for the area in conjunction with the City of Olympia.
The Olympia City Council voted late last year to downzone 80 acres near Ken Lake, a move prompted by concerns that building a development there would cause stormwater problems to Ken Lake and the Black Lake drainage ditch. A development is proposed for the area that meets the stricter criteria.
Cable Green, who lives near Ken Lake, said he and his neighbors favor limiting density and impervious surfaces.
“We’re very much in support of this rezoning of this community,” he said.
Nate Hulings: 360-754-5476 firstname.lastname@example.org www.theolympian.com/outsideoly