County girds for 500,000 more residents

May 12, 2009

By Jim Feehan

King County officials are considering updating growth targets for the region in anticipation for about a half-million more residents in the next 22 years.“King County is growing faster than projected,” Michael Hubner, Suburban Cities Association buildable lands and land use manager, recently told Newcastle city officials.

County officials are updating growth targets, providing a framework for local Growth Management Act comprehensive plan updates due in 2011. 

Issaquah planning officials estimate the population will grow from about 26,000 people to more than 29,000 people by 2022, according to projections included in the city’s comprehensive plan last year.

The 1990 Growth Management Act requires counties to draw urban-growth boundaries and keep most development inside them. King County, for instance, adopted a growth management plan in 1994 that prohibits new lots smaller than five acres outside the boundaries.

Issaquah planning officials are conducting an annual update to the city’s comprehensive plan. Long-Range Planning Manager Trish Heinonen said the work involves balancing growth targets and how to provide services for current and new residents.

“We don’t want to grow so much that the things people moved here for disappear,” she said. 

King County’s plan calls for the growth within the existing urban growth area, within cities and within designated urban centers. It also calls for limiting growth in rural areas and planning for infrastructure and public transportation to accommodate growth, Hubner said.

“We need to do a better job in reining in growth,” he said. “We’re fairly limited in where we can grow.”

In 2031, King County is expected to have a population of 2.3 million, or roughly the number of people in Hawaii and Montana combined. 

Officials from Issaquah and other cities are working with the county to update their growth targets. Those target numbers are needed to plan for 2011 state required comprehensive plan updates, Hubner said. 

Job growth is also projected to increase in the same period by nearly 450,000 jobs to a total of 1.7 million jobs. Planners must also balance population growth with where the jobs are, using a 30-minute commute distance as the target commute for workers, he said.

Recommended draft targets could go to the Growth Management Planning Council as soon as July, with a vote for adoption possible at the planning council’s meeting in September. Once adopted, the County Council and cities must ratify growth targets. 

Reach Reporter Jim Feehan at 392-6434, ext. 239, or Reporter Warren Kagarise contributed to this story. Comment on it at

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