• Arne Mortensen

Bureaucratic creep - Castle Rock UGA

Today, Tuesday 31Oct2017, at 10:00 the Board of Cowlitz County Commissioners held a public hearing to discuss adopting boundary changes for the Castle Rock Urban Growth Area (UGA). The meeting was closed with a postponement for two weeks at which time, presumably, a decision will be made by the BoCC.

After hearing the arguments, I felt strongly that the boundary change request should be denied, and that furthermore the County’s involvement with the Castle Rock UGA should be rescinded (dissolved).

The desire of the various planning groups (county and city) is to have the county change the UGA boundaries so that there is total agreement with the city of Castle Rock. Apparently over the years the city has moved its UGB (urban growth boundary) and the county has not.

The issues in bullet points:

  • What is a UGA?

  • In this context, it is county area upon which the city wishes to impose its building and planning codes.

  • The area is not subject to city rules, such as discharging a firearm.

  • The UGA is determined by the city and its planning commission.

  • This UGA is not mandated by law. No other city in Cowlitz has it, except Woodland, which is a special case because it sits in both Cowlitz and Clark County.

  • What is the reason to have a UGA?

  • I am told that it is to make areas adjacent to the city compatible with the city.

  • This makes no sense unless it is preparatory for annexation, yet I am told that is not the case.

  • One area always is adjacent to another, so there always are transitions at the boundaries. In this area, say, we have apartments, and right next to it is an agricultural area and there is a farm; so, what is the problem?

  • Somewhere buried in verbose responses were comments about utilities. Unless I am really missing something, I think following the money gives a clue.

  • Someone has to pay for sewer systems and water lines, and this may be a way into the pockets of the county residents.

  • I am told that is not case; yet there are references to one house in the county paying 1.5 times greater water bill per unit of water than a “city” house across the street.

  • The argument for the 1.5 “surcharge” is something about taxes the city folks have to pay, and the county folks do not.

  • Why does the county care?

  • It doesn’t. The county has adequate regulations governing the rest of the county area, and it should not get involved supporting this UGA.

  • Why should the county have the obligation to know about the rules the city wants to impose on county land?

  • Solutions

  1. The county agrees with the request to reconcile the UGA to the demands of Castle Rock, and the bureaucracy is happy and plans for eventual annexation …

  2. The county denies this request. Having disparate understanding of the UGA is not a good idea, so this option is no good, unless it is followed by (see next point C)

  3. After denying the UGA boundary alignment changes, rescind extant UGA agreement.

  4. Nothing breaks. The county applies rules uniformly across the county, in keeping with the Comprehensive Plan.

  5. Castle Rock will have to deal with this issue (annexation?) transparently.

  • So, barring some new developments, I will go with solution C. Why?

  • At the hearing today, there was NOT EVEN ONE citizen to testify. How do I know what the will of the property owners in those areas are?

  • People do not need more regulations. For me to agree with more regulation I need a compelling reason or full citizen participation; neither of these were presented.

  • The examples/cases/problems that the city of Castle Rock claimed would be solved by satisfying their request made no sense.

  • I see no problem being solved with the UGA. The city is free to try to annex areas.

Below is a map of the areas under discussion: the two areas in green are the ones intended to be added to the county's understanding of the UGA. The yellow area is a subtraction.

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