Change growth management rules

CAPITOL IDEAS

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David Taylor

Being an elected official in the Legislature means spending much of your time dealing with the law of unintended consequences. That is, dealing with outcomes unforeseen or intended by a purposeful action.

This is certainly the case as school districts around the state encounter the antiquated, one-size-fits-all environmental rules found in the Growth Management Act.

The GMA discourages development outside of urban growth areas while encouraging growth within. This building restriction includes schools, which is leading to a host of problems.

Rather than building schools where students are, districts are being forced to build within UGAs which oftentimes have little or no direct correlation to a district’s boundaries.

So even if a school needs to be built at one end of the district where student demand is high, it may be forced elsewhere because of UGA restrictions.

This forces students to be bussed longer and takes away a vital part of the community – the local school.

Another unintended consequence of the building restrictions is cost. In many counties, the amount of buildable land is shrinking. While the amount of land owned by various levels of government seems to grow larger by the hour, the actual land available for houses, apartments, shopping malls and industry shrinks continuously.

The simple law of supply and demand means schools are being forced — unnecessarily — to pay higher and higher costs to acquire buildable land.

These increased costs are born by taxpayers.

The fix is simple. We need to pass House Bill 1017, which would exempt school siting and construction from GMA’s burdensome restrictions.

This will allow districts to meet the needs of all students, make the most of our tax dollars and keep new schools or classrooms from being forcibly constructed in areas that do not benefit the local community.

I co-sponsored House Bill 1017 to help taxpayers get the most bang for their buck when building new schools and to make sure we’re building schools where our students actually live. While I understand there are environment special interest groups that want strict limits on what we can do and where we can do it, I find it hard to believe they would put their own extremist agenda in front of lower class sizes and educating our kids.

In this case, the law of unintended consequences is taking money out of your pocket and forcing students into classrooms on the other side of town.

— Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee, is the ranking Republican on the House Environment Committee.



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