Decision delayed on allowing school districts’ use of rural land

October 3, 2011

By Caleb Heeringa

A proposed regulation that could render some Issaquah and Lake Washington school district properties largely useless has been kicked down the road.

King County’s Growth Management Planning Council, which handles regional growth policies, voted at their Sept. 21 meeting to form a 32-person committee featuring representatives from the affected school districts and cities, mostly located in suburbs on the edge of the county’s urban growth boundary.

The proposal would forbid extending sewer lines to serve schools in rural areas and prevent rural schools from serving students who live inside the urban growth boundaries.

Smart growth advocates say the proposal would bring the county in line with the more than 20-year-old Growth Management Act and cut down on suburban sprawl as development follows new schools.

City Councilman Mark Cross, Sammamish’s lone representative on the planning council, says the rule would handcuff suburban school districts that could not use rural land they have already purchased for future schools. Both the Lake Washington and Issaquah school districts straddle the urban growth boundary and own millions of dollars worth of land that likely couldn’t be used for schools under the proposed rule.

Cross said he’s hopeful the committee could come up with some sort of compromise for districts like Lake Washington and Issaquah, including possibly grandfathering in the properties they currently own.

“On top of the (financial stress) school districts are feeling, we’re putting on the extra stress of voiding their ability to use the properties they already own,” Cross said. “In the interest … of having a low carbon footprint, we’re creating more bussing and transportation headaches.”

The committee is slated to make a recommendation to the board in early 2012.

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