Integrating Sustainability into Comprehensive Plans
Woodland District streetscape. Lacey, WA.
Lacey and Yelm this year moved toward incorporating Sustainable Thurston into their chief planning document — the comprehensive plan. Lacey adopted its updated plan in August, while Yelm aims to adopt its plan by December. The following is a look at how the fast-growing cities plan to accommodate growth sustainably.
By 2035, the population in Lacey’s unincorporated urban growth area (UGA) is projected to exceed what’s inside of the city limits, according to TRPC’s The Profile.
In order to plan for and provide services to all areas of the UGA, the Lacey Comprehensive Plan calls for a strategic annexation plan and has organized many of its goals and policies by planning area. Each planning area is composed of lands within city limits and/or areas that will be annexed in the future and is analyzed in more depth to identify strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. This planning approach is consistent with Sustainable Thurston Goal H-1: “Improve regulatory clarity and predictability to encourage urban infill and redevelopment.”
Another Lacey Comprehensive Plan policy prioritizes neighborhood walkability. This relates directly to Sustainable Thurston Goal C-1: “Encourage efficient use of land and building form that encourages walkability.”
Such comprehensive plan policies recognize what makes each part of Lacey special, and show how neighborhoods can accommodate added growth while still maintaining a distinct identity.
“We didn’t want to make the focus of the Comprehensive Plan Sustainable Thurston or use buzzwords like ‘sustainability’ that mean something different depending on whom you talk to,” said Lacey Planning Manager Ryan Andrews. “If you do good planning and are a good steward, your community will be inherently sustainable.”
Yelm is taking a decidedly “no-frills” approach to updating the Yelm Comprehensive Plan, culminating in a public-review draft that’s just 52 pages.
The Yelm Planning Commission identified more than 50 Sustainable Thurston goals that apply to the community. These goals — including zeroing out waste and carbon emissions and protecting water quality and small-town character — were incorporated into the draft plan that the Yelm City Council will consider for adoption by the end of 2016.
“Growth Management is all about sustainable development — building in a smaller footprint and preserving our open spaces,” explained Grant Beck, Yelm’s Community Development Director. “Incorporating Sustainable Thurston was just the next step in planning for our community.”
The Sustainable Thurston Report Card, a new online tool developed by TRPC, is a data-driven approach to answering these questions. It is designed to track the region’s progress toward meeting the goals of the Sustainable Thurston plan, including eight of the priority goals and targets set for 2035.
The Sustainable Thurston Report Card builds on the Regional Benchmarks for Thurston County, last published in 2008. Benchmarks tracked the region’s progress toward meeting the goals of the 1990 Growth Management Act. The Report Card expands on this work by including 30 measures of progress focused on sustainability. Measures are grouped into six categories: Community, Economy, Opportunities & Choices, Investment, Environment, and Transportation. Three examples are included below.
The redesigned online format includes information on what’s being measured, why it’s important, and what we can do to improve our trajectory. Users can also find interactive charts, downloadable tables, and links to additional resources.
Meaningful data are key to making informed decisions, and the Sustainable Thurston Report Card will help us measure what gets managed.
LOTT Clean Water Alliance produced over 1.6 million gallons of reclaimed water in 2014, more than four-times production in 2004. Recent achievements include using reclaimed water to irrigate the Tumwater Valley Golf Course.
Increasing Access to Parks & Open Space
There has been little change in the percent of homes within walking distance of a park or open space. New parks, and more housing near parks, would improve progress.
Finding Shelter for Our Homeless Population
Thurston County did not meet its 2015 goal of reducing homelessness by 50%. In fact, homelessness rose by over 30%. Ending homelessness will require continued investment in, and coordination by, public, private, and non-profit partners.