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Comprehensive plans are the centerpiece of local planning efforts. A comprehensive plan articulates a series of goals and policies that are intended to guide the decisions of elected officials and local government staff. The Comprehensive Plan provides long range policy direction for land use, transportation, economic development, housing, capital facilities, utilities, parks and recreation, and natural environment. It lays out a community vision and priorities and describes, where, how, and in some cases when development should occur.
The Washington State Growth Management Act (GMA) is a state law that requires state and local governments to manage Washington's growth by identifying and protecting critical areas and natural resource lands, designating urban growth areas, preparing comprehensive plans, and implementing them through capital investments and development regulations. This approach to growth management is unique among states. GMA was adopted by the Legislature in 1990 (Chapter 36.70A). The GMA was adopted because the Washington State Legislature found that uncoordinated and unplanned growth posed a threat to the environment, sustainable economic development, and the quality of life in Washington. The central premise of the GMA is that spontaneous and unstructured growth and development is wasteful of our natural resource base and costly to the provision of public services and facilities. By managing growth and development, the negative effects can be minimized, and the benefits can be maximized.
Counties need a comprehensive plan to ensure that decisions made today will result in efficient and sustainable growth in the future. Policies contained in comprehensive plans are meant to ensure orderly growth and protect the public’s best interests. As counties continue to grow, having a comprehensive plan in place enables local governments to identify and respond to changing community needs and desires in a thoughtful rather than reactive way.
The Comprehensive Plan is a policy document that acts in a guiding role to provide recommendations on how land should be utilized to meet the needs and desires of the county. The Zoning Ordinance is part of the Island County Municipal Code and regulates the type, scale, and intensity of development which may occur in specific zoning districts, as recommended by the Comprehensive Plan.