Thurston County and its cities were already involved in growth management and comprehensive planning prior to the enactment of the Growth Management Act. During the 1980’s Lacey and Thurston County were in the forefront of many growth management-related initiatives including an inter-local agreement in 1983 which established urban growth areas and urban densities, delineated annexation areas, and specified that zoning in the Urban Growth Areas (UGA’s) would not be changed when they were annexed. A second phase of inter-local planning was completed in 1988 with another Urban Growth Agreement which identified short and long-term growth boundaries and also established where the cities of Lacey, Olympia, and Tumwater could annex in the county. Additionally, the agreement only allowed cities to extend sewer service into the area within the short term urban growth boundary. Some of these principles were later incorporated into the State’s Growth Management Act.
The state Growth Management Act (GMA), adopted in 1990, sets a framework and direction for coordination and efficient growth of communities. One major goal of the GMA is to reduce urban sprawl by encouraging development in urban areas where adequate public facilities already exist or where such facilities can be more efficiently provided. Under the GMA, counties establish urban growth areas (UGAs) wherein population and employment are encouraged. UGAs may include incorporated and unincorporated areas, are
intended to be provided with urban levels of service and infrastructure, and their level of development is expected to exhibit an urban intensity not shared by rural areas. This concentration of uses and development intensity within UGAs works to ensure protection of the state’s natural environment and resource lands by deterring sprawl.
A UGA may include more than a single city, as well as territory that is located outside of a city only if such territory already is characterized by urban growth whether or not the UGA includes a city, or is adjacent to territory already characterized by urban growth, or is a designated new fully contained community as defined by RCW 36.70A.350.