Dear friends and families,
This notice is to remind you of some very important hearings next week. We are in the final stretch of amending our Comprehensive Plan for land use and receiving public testimony. The document we are finalizing was recommended by the Planning Commission. They did a fine job discerning a mountain of information that was placed in front of them.
Last week’s email noted that only testimony pertaining to the topics on the agenda would be heard in the committee meetings. That has changed. You may testify on any Comp Plan amendments at the hearings. There are two hearings remaining before sending the document to the full council on June 30.
On Monday, June 8, please make plans to attend the Community Development Committee (CDC) hearing at HARBOR RIDGE MIDDLE SCHOOL, 9010 Prentice Ave., Gig Harbor, WA 98332. This meeting is focused on rural issues:
- Rural land use and map changes.
- Rural commercial areas – Limited Areas of More Intensive Rural Development (LAMIRDs).
- Resource lands – Forest, Mineral, and Agriculture (including resource land use maps).
- School facility siting in rural areas.
- Detached accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in rural area.
- Implementing regulations related to rural and resource lands.
I know the bridge is a hassle and it’s a long drive, but there is a great deal of misinformation being circulated about Agricultural Resource Land (ARL) in the county. Please come to hear from fellow citizens and discern the truth for yourself.
On Monday, June 15, CDC meets in Council Chambers to hear testimony focused on amendments to the plan. It will then vote to forward it to the full Council for the June 30, 3:00 pm meeting.
Apparently, when the planners mapped out the state to comply with the GMA, they mapped land regionally, according to where they wanted people to live, drive, work and play, not necessarily farm. Now, a disingenuous media campaign is being launched to garner support for designating an additional 31,000 acres of land as ARL to keep up with King and Snohomish counties.
The most productive soils (class 1 and 2) are already under the commercial developments in the river valleys (encouraged by the GMA's requirement for concentrated urban development). The class 3 soils (have "severe limitations" - by definition) and class 4 and class 5 soils (have "very severe limitations" - by definition) for agricultural production. As the Bethel School Districts’ soil scientist stated in written testimony at the Planning Commission hearings, for class 3, 4 and 5 soils to be considered "prime farm land" (as these are the soils considered under the ARL proposal), they must be either drained or irrigated. Considering the prohibition of wetland development and the impossibility of obtaining water rights in this county, these are unrealistic expectations.
While I believe the Growth Management Act (GMA) is responsible for massive and unnecessary increases in our cost of living and loss of prime farmland, it is current state law and we have to abide by it and we have. The county already designated its ARL. It’s done. It was approved. If government is serious about helping farmers, let’s cut regulations! Make farming profitable.
I have received several emails, mostly from other districts and non-farm owners, claiming the land will be developed and thousands of jobs will be lost. Not true. The code won’t allow that kind of development. If farming were viable, the owners would be farming.
There are serious questions relating to how ARL designations will affect property values in the long run and interfere with property rights. It is a topic that needs to be thoroughly vetted. The Planning Commission recommends a study and I agree.
According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, today’s farmers produce 262% more food with 2 percent fewer inputs (labor, seeds, feed, fertilizer, etc.) compared with 1950. Farm and ranch families comprise 2% of the U.S. population. There is no crisis. Let’s get the knowledge before restricting thousands of acres of land and revisit this discussion in the next comp plan cycle.