Inside Opinion

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Tag: growth management


Orton Junction: A development deal done right

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Sumner’s plan to carve a major development – Orton Junction – out of adjacent agricultural land has been a moving target for months. Its supporters kept on refining it, and its preservationists kept on opposing it.

Last week, after the crucial intervention of the Cascade Land Conservancy, Orton Junction finally became a clear win for rural protection.

At first glance, that seems impossible. Despite the tinkering, Sumner will still be swallowing 182 acres of protected rural countryside – including 125 acres of prime farmland – on the city’s southern border.

Any paving-over of topsoil harks back to the bad old days when the Pierce County Council was the girl who couldn’t say no. Developers who came along whistling tunes about jobs, money and affordable housing could pretty much have their way with the countryside.

Orton Junction’s opponents have feared that the project would set a precedent for renewed rural depredation. But what it’s evolved into is a precedent for protection.
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Looking for homes in all the wrong places

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

As a reality check on hopes for growth management, the new census numbers are roughly the equivalent of a whack on the head with a two-by-four.

The still-crucial goal of the 1990 Growth Management Act was to channel the state’s expanding populations into areas that were already urbanized or suburbanized. The idea was to protect farmlands, wetlands and critical wildlife habitat – and not so incidentally, the taxpayers’ pocketbooks.

Uncontrolled growth – letting suburban development overrun the countryside in every direction – is a guarantee of wasteful government spending on a stupendous scale.

Orting is a good example. Pierce County and the city’s own officials have allowed it to grow rapidly over the last two decades. The problem is, you can only get to and from the Orting area on a two-lane road – which is now routinely jammed.

Major road and other infrastructure projects siphon fortunes out of the public treasury, fortunes that might be saved if growth were contained to areas that already had roads and other urban infrastructure.

But it’s been obvious for years that the state’s attempts at growth management were in trouble. The 2010 Census shows how much trouble.

The big and middling-sized cities where most newcomers were supposed to live have been growing far more slowly than Puget Sound’s planners hoped for, the census confirms. Lakewood actually shrank over the last decade, as did much of Tacoma.
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