The Stakes

If the WWGMHB doesn’t invalidate San Juan County's 1979 densities, GMA and all it stands for will be irrelevant to San Juan County. My argument goes like this: the County need only show that it has sufficient capacity in its urban areas to meet the GMA mandated OFM population forecasts. It is not obliged by GMA to actually require people who are moving here to live in the places that it has capacity for, i.e., that it has planned for. The county right now has so much density overcapacity that it can easily show that it meets the OFM requirements, and meanwhile people who come here will simply build where ever they want, which is almost entirely in the rural areas. The plan meets the law, there is therefore nothing to enforce and in any case there is no enforcement provision in GMA that people actually follow the plan. Meanwhile the county simply grows according to individual choices, regardless of the principles of GMA and regardless of the existence of a comprehensive plan. The only way GMA would really work as intended by the legislature would be if the county were already at buildout and the county were thus required, in order to meet the OFM population it is obliged to accept, to upzone. The County would then have to upzone according to GMA principles and would only issue building permits in the places where such upzoning (and associated simple land division following the upzone action) had taken place, i.e., in the areas and in such a manner as to conform to GMA and OFM.

Now if the BOCC really truly embraced the Vision Statement rather than considering it and the comp plan a kind of nuisance, they could implement the spirit of the vision statement AND meet OFM population forecasts (thus meeting GMA) very simply. They’d say that the County doesn’t want to grow much (the Vision Statement) so we as a county will choose to grow no faster than OFM requires us to grow. We’ll use OFM as both a lower and upper limit on our growth. We have to use it as a lower limit, by GMA. We choose to make it an upper limit, via our honoring of our Vision Statement. We allocate population between urban and rural areas thru a real citizen process and then, using OFM population forecasts for each year of the planning period, issue building permits on a lottery basis in direct proportion to the urban/rural allocation we’ve chosen (that meets GMA standards). In a stroke we implement the letter and the spirit of GMA and the Vision Statement. It's done. Bingo.

Now, who will tie the bell around the cat's neck?

Joe Symons, June 1999