This article comes from Duane Johnson. He and his wife are Snoqualmie Hills land owners who are selling to a development group that is proposing 250 acres located within the Urban Growth Area (UGA) be annexed by the City of Snoqualmie in order for an 800-home active adult community to be built. Duane wrote the piece in an effort to clear up some misinformation regarding what the UGA is and what it is intended to protect in Washington State – and particularly areas surrounding the Snoqualmie Valley. Read on…
Understanding the Urban Growth Area
The Urban Growth Area, better known as the UGA, is an area contiguous with a City that has been designated for urban growth. Land outside of the UGA is designated to remain rural. The idea was to develop a thoughtful and realistic plan to accommodate anticipated growth in a manner that would promote balanced, healthy communities and preserve rural lands. It has worked. Less than 2% of all land in our State falls within the UGA. UGA’s are designed to preserve the local area’s natural beauty and maintain the “Rural Atmosphere” by preventing urban sprawl into the green forested areas.
The City of Snoqualmie, King County and the State of Washington have all agreed where those UGA’s should be located for future planned development. Location of a UGA is not a process that was taken lightly or crafted overnight by the governing bodies making the decision for the boundaries of the UGA. In fact, designation of Snoqualmie’s UGA began in the mid-1990s. The designation process was well thought out and intensely studied. There were many public meetings, with citizens and stakeholder input considered before the UGA was finally approved and adopted.
Another important role of UGA’s is accommodating growth under the state’s Growth Management Act. UGA’s enable cities to plan for growth at densities and in locations that support the efficient provision of urban services. With the UGA in place, small cities like Snoqualmie and large cities like Bellevue and Seattle each will take their share of population growth. The UGA’s and related comprehensive planning processes have enabled cities to plan for growth in a manner that is thoughtful and balanced.
The UGA also is very difficult to expand or modify in any way once it is established. For example, the City of Snoqualmie has attempted several times to expand the existing UGA to include the area North of I-90 and Highway 18. The City’s request has been repeatedly denied, even though it was appealed all the way to Superior Court of Washington. Instead, existing land within the current Snoqualmie UGA should be developed as intended.
Snoqualmie Ridge is an example of a dense urban master planned development within the UGA. This could have instead evolved from the clear-cut tree farm that was its prior use and perhaps would have been developed into 5 or 10 acre lots with a mix of single family homes. Instead, Snoqualmie Ridge is a very nice place for families and all of us to enjoy. It also will continue to be a great neighborhood partly because the existing UGA’s will help preserve the rural areas of our State outside the current UGA boundary.
We should not be surprised by plans to develop within the UGA. Instead, we should be thankful that we are adhering to a plan that is protecting the tremendous natural areas surrounding our city.
~ Duane Johnson