Active Legal Appeals

Futurewise engages with counties across the state to improve comprehensive plans and shoreline master programs. When plans don't meet the requirements of the GMA, Futurewise may appeal to bring them into alignment.

Grays Harbor County

Grays Harbor County residents and fish and wildlife habitats will be more severely affected by sea level rise than any other Washington county. Grays Harbor has large areas of estuarine and terrestrial habitat that are vulnerable to sea level rise. Marshes and wetlands will migrate inland as sea level rises. However, if the SMP regulations are not updated to allow the vegetation to migrate landward in feasible locations, wetlands and shoreline vegetation will decline harming fish and wildlife. It will also deprive marine shorelines of vegetation that protects property from erosion.

The official shorelines advisory committee for the SMP update agreed that the impacts of sea level rise are a serious concern to the residents of the county. Sea level rise was addressed 14 times in the draft the committee approved. However, the only mention of sea level rise in the SMP approved by the county and Ecology is to note that the public raised the issue. Futurewise and the Friends of Grays Harbor appealed Ecology’s approval of the SMP update to the Shorelines Hearings Board. All briefing has been completed and the oral argument was held on July 30. 2021.

In fall 2021, the Shoreline Hearings Board ruled against our appeal. Futurewise and Friends of Grays Harbor are appealing that ruling. For more information, check out our #TimTalk.

King County

In 2019, King County adopted a new ordinance to regulate wineries, breweries and distilleries in the Sammamish Valley. The ordinance was drafted to address increased concerns from residents and farmers in rural King County regarding the illegal operation of wine or beer production facilities and tasting rooms on properties zoned for agricultural and rural uses and to legalize some of the tasting rooms. (More information in Wonkabout Washington) However, Futurewise believed the ordinance as adopted was insufficient in protecting working farms and water resources. With our partners Friends of the Sammamish Valley, we appealed the ordinance to the Growth Management Hearings Board and were successful in front of the GMHB.

The county appealed our Growth Management Hearings Board win to superior court. The Board had concluded that King County improperly conducted State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review and refused to dismiss some of the issues in the appeal. The superior court judge concluded that the Board erred in using a summary judgment process to conclude that King County improperly conducted SEPA review of the wineries, breweries, and distilleries ordinance. That issue was remanded back to the Board for briefing and full hearing on the merits of the County’s SEPA review. The court agreed with the Board that the two issues were properly before the Board.

The Washington State Growth Management Hearings Board concluded that King County’s controversial Adult Beverage Zoning Ordinance failed to comply with the Washington State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) and the Washington State Growth Management Act (GMA) in a detailed, unanimous January 3, 2022, Order. The Board also made a finding of invalidity, meaning that development applications for adult beverage uses, such as tasting rooms or event centers, cannot be approved until a new ordinance that complies with state law is adopted by the county.

Pierce County

Pierce County’s Centers and Corridors plan proposed to increase densities in parts of unincorporated Pierce County without transit service, sidewalks, schools, and other basic public services. It also failed to integrate affordable housing and anti-displacement strategies into the upzones. The county’s own housing studies show that the proposal is likely to shift housing from areas in Tacoma that have transit and sidewalks, are planned for higher density multifamily housing, and require developers to provide affordable housing and contribute to needed public facilities. For these reasons, Futurewise appealed the plan.

In 2021, we settled our Pierce County appeal. Pierce County limited the new centers comprehensive plan designations and zoning to areas that are designated as transit-oriented communities in the Puget Sound Regional Council’s Vision 2050, the region’s long range transportation plan. The county repealed the Fredrickson Town Center which was inconsistent with Vision 2050. The increased centers densities will not apply until bus rapid transit is funded to the serve each of the centers. Pierce County adopted policies giving priority for public facility funding for designated centers including improvements to support walking, bicycling, and transit use. Victory!

Franklin County

In August 2021, Futurewise appealed an expansion of the Pasco Urban Growth Area in Franklin County in order to protect valuable farmland in the community. In January 2022, we had a major victory in front of the Growth Management Hearings Board!

For the past three years, we have worked to convince the City and County to accommodate growth in Pasco on land that is not designated agricultural lands. Our comment letters can be found here.

Central to our argument was that it was illegal under the GMA for the comprehensive plan to "dedesignate" agricultural land in the county. What does "dedesignating" mean? In a nutshell, it just means changing the land use from one use to another use. So land that was previously designated as agricultural land, protecting it from development, was dedesignated, making it vulnerable to sprawl and conversion to housing or industrial uses.

The Board agreed with us that 2,521 acres of the Pasco urban growth area (UGA) expansion had been designated "Agricultural" and was agricultural lands of long-term commercial significance that must be conserved. Since the 2020 Franklin County Comprehensive Plan dedesignated this land, the plan violated the Growth Management Act. Further, since they are agricultural lands of long-term commercial significance they cannot be included at all in the urban growth area.

The Board also agreed with Futurewise that the county had not adequately considered the environmental impacts of expanding the Pasco UGA in violation of the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). Read more about the appeal in our blog post.