Thursday, September 29, 2005

Lewis County GMA Case to be Heard by Washington Supreme Court

"The state Supreme Court will soon decide on an appeal by Lewis County whether the state Growth Management Act dictates how much land the county must zone for agriculture, or whether the county has leeway to decide that based on the reality of local agricultural trends and whether the land is profitable for farming. The appeal to the higher court by the county occurred after Lewis County Superior Court Judge H. John Hall sided with the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board in its ruling that the county in its comprehensive growth management plan hadn't designated nearly enough land with long-term commercial significance for agricultural use. The hearings board's ruling was in response to an appeal of the county's agricultural zoning by a small local group that wants to more than double the amount of land the county zoned. The group dismisses the fact that some of the land they want in the zone has not been commercially farmed for years because it is, at best, economically marginal for that purpose. In a brief filed with the Supreme Court, Chehalis attorney Lewis Zieske, representing the group, argued the county based its agricultural zoning on industry needs and not on suitable soils. In fact, the county based its zoning of about 43,000 acres (compared to the more than 100,000 acres the group wants) for agriculture based primarily on the recommendation of a technical advisory panel consisting of experts on the agricultural industry in the county. The recommendation was based on economic realities in the industry, including factors such as the availability of irrigation, apart from just what are designated as productive soils."

November 10, 2005, oral argument in Lewis County v. Western WA Growth Mgmt. Hearings Board, et al. available at