Public can weigh in Wednesday on Thurston County’s plans for growth through 2040

The Thurston County Comprehensive Plan will guide growth in unincorporated areas through 2040.
The Thurston County Comprehensive Plan will guide growth in unincorporated areas through 2040. Thurston County Community Planning

Thurston County Community Planning is in the midst of updating the county’s Comprehensive Plan, a document that guides growth in unincorporated areas through 2040. On Wednesday evening, residents can comment on much of the plan.

Between 2005 and 2020, the Thurston Regional Planning Council estimates the population of Thurston County will have grown by more than 69,000 people. And growth is expected to remain steady: Comprehensive Plan documents show that an estimated 100,000 more people will be living in Thurston County in 2040 than were here in 2017, with most of the growth occurring in cities.

The commission will host a public hearing Wednesday on updates to 11 of the plan’s 14 chapters, its glossary, appendices, maps, and a proposed land use amendment for The Evergreen State College, plus zoning standards associated with that change. County materials refer to this group of items as the CORE Comprehensive Plan Update.

The 11 chapters up for discussion include guidance for land use, housing, natural resources, utilities, transportation, environment, and economic development.

There are 87 pages of public comments for the CORE update online, as of July 9. Common themes include concern for preserving agricultural land, more restrictive codes on cell-tower placement, and protecting groundwater.

Maya Teeple, an associate planner with Community Planning and project manager of the Comprehensive Plan Update, said Washington’s Growth Management Act (GMA) requires counties and cities to do these periodic reviews every eight years.

“This periodic update is for the county to review the comprehensive plan and make sure it aligns with the most recent state laws and major changes that have taken place within the community,” Teeple wrote.

But Thurston County’s plan was last subject to a periodic update like this one in late 2004 -- 15 years ago. Teeple said the last periodic update was due in June 2016, a longer-than-normal cycle because of the recession in 2008.

In addition to these periodic updates, citizens can request amendments to the plan that the Board of County Commissioners considers each year. But the commissioners froze consideration of new amendment requests in February 2018; Teeple said consideration will resume once the current periodic update is complete.

The public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 10, in Room 152 of the Thurston County Courthouse, Building 1.

Teeple said the CORE items will be reviewed by the Board of County Commissioners after this week’s meeting, and that there will be at least one more public hearing on the items. That meeting is not yet scheduled.

The CORE update is slated to be completed in late 2019 or early 2020.

Public hearing drafts of each section of the plan are available at www.Thurston2040.com.

Sara Gentzler joined The Olympian in June 2019. She primarily covers Thurston County government and its courts, as well as breaking news. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Creighton University.