December President's Message

By Paula Reeves, AICP CTP


As we move into the 4th quarter of this year, it is amazing to see what strides our organization has made again. With the dedication of so many members, we are really “leaping tall buildings in a single bound.” 

On November 13th, APA Washington was honored to host the Growth Management Act 25th Anniversary Conference at the beautiful Tacoma Museum of Glass.  It was sold out several weeks before the meeting date and very well attended by over 200 planners, attorneys, policy makers, and others involved in all aspects of growth management planning. A special thanks to all of our members who lent their time and energy to help make this conference a success. 

 This unique event provided a forum for reflecting on the past and looking ahead to the future of planning in our state. Tacoma’s Mayor Strickland welcomed attendees to the afternoon’s discussion and King County Council Chair Larry Phillips, one of the original sponsors of the GMA when it was passed by the State Legislature in 1990, drew a picture of the circumstances that led to passage of the Act and left us all with some powerful messages about the driving forces behind the legislation including the “loss of farmlands, changing landscape, rising housing costs, costs of new schools, and traffic congestion.” There was general agreement that the GMA has been a qualified success with the designation of urban growth areas, improved public participation, streamlining of permitting processes and service delivery, and ensuring more compatibility of land uses.

Photo courtesy of Rita R. Robison

A few of the takeaway messages for the next 25 years of planning in Washington State included: 

  • Continue to recognize that one size does not fit all; the flexibility within GMA has been its strength. 
  • Adequate funding to plan and carry out the provisions of GMA is needed.
  • Revisit some of the vesting provisions or zoning in place before GMA passed in 1990 that has been kept in place. 
  • Include special districts in planning under GMA (school districts for example).
  • Consider the prescriptive nature of the comprehensive plan elements outlined in GMA. 
  • Begin to quantify the economic costs and benefits of land use in new ways including social, human and natural capital.

We closed the conference with the presentation of Lifetime of GMA Achievement Awards recognizing some of the inspiring efforts by communities throughout the state to envision and plan for their future. On behalf of the APA Washington Chapter, I also presented individual awards to outstanding planners in our state including:

  • The Bob Burke Award for distinguished service to the chapter (President's Award) presented to Laura Hudson, former Community and Economic Development Director for the City of Vancouver.
  • The Myer Wolfe Award for professional achievement (nominated by the FAICP Committee this year) presented to John Owen, Partner at Makers Architecture and Urban Design.
  • The Barbara Grace Award (President's Award for a distinguished mid-level planner) presented to the Lacey current planning team of Samra Seymour and Sarah Schelling. 

Mark your calendars! Several other exciting events and opportunities are just around the corner in 2016:

On January 6th, APA Washington will host a Curbside Chat with Charles Marohn, Strong Towns founder and President in Lacey at the South Puget Sound Community College. This event will mark the initiation of a South Puget Sound Section of APA Washington and expand opportunities for planners in this historically underserved portion of the state. To get additional details and register for this event, visit the APA Washington website:

Planning is getting underway for the 2016 Annual Conference. This year’s conference will be held in partnership with APA Oregon Chapter in Portland in October. If you are interested in getting involved in conference planning, please contact me at: [email protected]

And be sure to check the APA website for more information:

Reminder to student planners, starting January 1st the APA Divisions council has a special “Five for Five.” Students will be able to choose five APA divisions and receive five years of free membership through the APA Early Career Membership Program. This is a great deal for our young planners to get involved and build their community!

As always, I invite you to drop me a line or call me to let me know of other news around the state at [email protected] or 360-701-1943.

All the Best – Paula Reeves

Return to December issue of The Washington Planner