Lewis County is poised to update its ordinance on Urban Growth Areas, a change that county leaders say will help clear up outdated policies.
“It’s outdated, it’s complicated and cumbersome,” said Community Development Director Lee Napier.
Urban growth areas are portions of unincorporated Lewis County that are near the city limits of other municipalities that are projected to be annexed into the cities in the future. Cities and counties often take a co-management role in such areas to ensure they have consistent standards if and when they are later brought into city limits.
Lewis County’s current UGA ordinance designates guidelines on a city-by-city basis and cites codes that are no longer current.
“We’re trying to make the code match the current practices,” Napier said.
The new code proposed by the county will simply put each UGA into one of three categories. The first would see a UGA solely administered by the Lewis County and governed by county regulations. Toledo and Vader’s UGAs currently operate in a similar manner.
The second option allows for city assistance on the county’s administration. Cities would be able to enforce their own zoning standards, while other county regulations would be applied.
Finally, the third option allows for the most city control. Cities would handle permits, zoning and other regulations. Legally, the county would still have to handle floodplain regulations, septic and well standards, stormwater and road access. Centralia, Chehalis and Winlock currently operate their Urban Growth Areas in a similar manner.
Napier credited senior long-range planner Fred Evander for his work on the code update, saying he’d consulted with several small cities on the proposal.
“We hope that the language being more plain talk will be easier for citizens to look and read the language,” she said. “There’s quite a bit of (staff) turnover in the smaller cities, and when a new clerk comes in it should be clear to them how we co-manage the UGA.”
County commissioners voted Monday to set a hearing date for the new ordinance for Feb. 4.