Woodinville Growth: City or Rural, There is no Suburban

According to the Growth Management Act, a town is urban or rural, no in-between suburbia, according to the county. Residents can weigh on at upcoming county meetings, including one in Woodinville.


Characterizing Woodinville or any area in King County is not easy. When Woodinville Patch asked the community last week if Woodinville was urban, rural or suburban, people living here were split on whether it’s rural or suburban.

In our poll, 57 percent of voters classified Woodinville as rural, while 34 percent said it was suburban, only 7 percent said it was urban (to vote in the poll, ).

The county, which is currently updating its 2012 King County Comprehensive Plan, Woodinville’s growth targets are for 3,000 net new housing units between 2006 and 2031, and 5,000 net new jobs in the same time period, according to the final draft. And of those housing units, a target of 16 percent would be for people with moderate incomes, while 26.5 percent would be for low-income residents.

The update is mandated by the Growth Management Act (GMA), which the state legislature passed in 1990 as a way to plan growth in Washington. The Growth Management Act requires that comprehensive plans address specific issues including land use, transportation, housing, facilities and services, utilities, natural environment, and economic development.

In the plan put forth by King County Executive Dow Constantine, areas in the Sammamish Valley that are unincorporated and designated in the county’s Agricultural Protected District (see map), will remain protected and will not be annexed by the city (annexation story to come).

What the county’s plan does not accommodate is any area being designated as suburban. “As these code sections will show, there is no suburban definition, only rural or urban,” Kathy Lambert, county council board member representing unincorporated Woodinville, wrote to Patch. “The Urban Growth Boundary is the “bright-line” to distinguish the two.  Either you’re in or you’re out – GMA (and King County policies) does not assume an in-between (in this case, there is no “suburban”).”

Here are the current definitions of rural and urban:

RCW 36.70A.030 Definitions:

(15) "Rural character" refers to the patterns of land use and development established by a county in the rural element of its comprehensive plan:
(a) In which open space, the natural landscape, and vegetation predominate over the built environment;
(b) That foster traditional rural lifestyles, rural-based economies, and opportunities to both live and work in rural areas;
(c) That provide visual landscapes that are traditionally found in rural areas and communities;
(d) That are compatible with the use of the land by wildlife and for fish and wildlife habitat;
(e) That reduce the inappropriate conversion of undeveloped land into sprawling, low-density development;
(f) That generally do not require the extension of urban governmental services; and
(g) That are consistent with the protection of natural surface water flows and groundwater and surface water recharge and discharge areas.

(16) "Rural development" refers to development outside the urban growth area and outside agricultural, forest, and mineral resource lands designated pursuant to RCW 36.70A.170. Rural development can consist of a variety of uses and residential densities, including clustered residential development, at levels that are consistent with the preservation of rural character and the requirements of the rural element. Rural development does not refer to agriculture or forestry activities that may be conducted in rural areas.

(17) "Rural governmental services" or "rural services" include those public services and public facilities historically and typically delivered at an intensity usually found in rural areas, and may include domestic water systems, fire and police protection services, transportation and public transit services, and other public utilities associated with rural development and normally not associated with urban areas. Rural services do not include storm or sanitary sewers, except as otherwise authorized by RCW 36.70A.110(4).

(18) "Urban governmental services" or "urban services" include those public services and public facilities at an intensity historically and typically provided in cities, specifically including storm and sanitary sewer systems, domestic water systems, street cleaning services, fire and police protection services, public transit services, and other public utilities associated with urban areas and normally not associated with rural areas.

(19) "Urban growth" refers to growth that makes intensive use of land for the location of buildings, structures, and impermeable surfaces to such a degree as to be incompatible with the primary use of land for the production of food, other agricultural products, or fiber, or the extraction of mineral resources, rural uses, rural development, and natural resource lands designated pursuant to RCW 36.70A.170. A pattern of more intensive rural development, as provided in RCW 36.70A.070(5)(d), is not urban growth. When allowed to spread over wide areas, urban growth typically requires urban governmental services. "Characterized by urban growth" refers to land having urban growth located on it, or to land located in relationship to an area with urban growth on it as to be appropriate for urban growth.

(20) "Urban growth areas" means those areas designated by a county pursuant to RCW 36.70A.110.

The county is holding public meetings on the proposed King County Comprehensive Plan. The meetings start on March 22. Each hearing begins with an open house at 6 p.m., with the public meeting scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m.

  • FALL CITY –Thursday, March 22
    Chief Kanim Middle School Commons
    32627 SE Redmond Fall City Rd.
    Fall City, Wa. 98024
  • WOODINVILLE—Thursday, April 12
    The Y at the Carol Edwards Center
    17401 133rd Avenue NE
    Woodinville, Wa. 98072
  • RAVENSDALE—Wednesday, April 25 
    Tahoma Junior High Commons
    25600 Summit Landsburg Road,
    Ravensdale, Wa. 98051

People  can also submit written testimony online at www.kingcounty.gov/council and following the link under Hot Topics to the “Comprehensive Plan.”

Public testimony will also be taken at regularly scheduled meetings of the Council's Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee throughout the spring and summer of 2012. These are daytime meetings held the first and third Tuesdays at 9:30 a.m. in the Council chambers on the 10th floor of the King County Courthouse.

Sue R March 16, 2012 at 10:49 PM
In my opinion there is no reason that the city should be wasting time and tax $$ in annexing more land into the city, especially agricultural land. I will share the words of a daughter of one of the founding families which I came across and who states so eloquently that the valley views must be preserved at all costs, for they are the equivalent of sea shore views in coastal areas. Besides the fact that once these precious lands are lost they are lost forever to city development, the city needs to really consider what the economic value will be vs. the cost of sustenance. The city has vacancies everywhere in its realestate offerings. There are vacant warehouses, vacant houses, vacant storefronts, and vacant parking lots all over in Woodinville so why add more to compete? The roads in that area already have high traffic and their share of accidents, why add more expense in traffic mitigation when Woodinville already has needs for limited road work monies? This is a poor idea and I am glad that Mr. Constantine who is not from this area, has the clarity to see the light to preserve the agricultural preserve.
Mike Tanksley March 17, 2012 at 03:33 PM
It is important to understand that the Greater Woodinville community extends beyond the city boundaries to include properties that are in Rural King County. The line is often difficult to perceive by looking at neighborhoods, especially along the east boundaries of the City. This is because much of the land was subdivided before the Growth Management Act mandated that Urban and Rural areas be clearly designated. If a property is inside the City limits of Woodinville, it is inside the Urban Growth Area. The best map in this article to view the Urban Growth Boundary, which separates Urban areas from Rural areas, is the last map, labelled "Potential Annexation Areas." The red line is the Urban Growth Boundary. It is a large scale map of the entire King County area, so it is difficult to use it to determine the location of specific properties, but you can see where Woodinville is at the top. You can also clearly see the peninsula of Rural areas that bulges westward just south of Woodinville. That area includes the Sammamish Valley farmlands, Hollywood Hill and the Rural neighborhoods that connect down to the Bear Creek area to the east.
Randy Koetje March 18, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Woodinville voted to be a city, we should accept the regional responsibility that goes along with it. Concentrating growth in the cities is a much better approach than perpetuating sprawl. Woodinville should embrace its rural and agricultural neighbors, and make land use decisions accordingly. Some past and present council members believe that the city’s responsibility stops at the city border; nothing could be further from the truth. The city should embrace those outside the city limits, since they are likely to shop and raise families here, support our local schools, etc.
Bob Martinek March 19, 2012 at 04:13 PM
View! Only if you live on the bluff above the Redhook Brewery, St. Michele, Columbia Winery, Tractor dealer, flooded lawn grower and chicken farm in mud. Oh, the development on the west hill, forgot that. Or the moldy green visqueen covered Quonset hut? How bout that nice dome of Gold Creek Athletic club and the filled in swimming pool. If the county is willing to buy up the existing NON agricultural activity, bulldoze it and lease it all to pea patchers, they should get out of the way! No one seems to care about all the tourism businesses moving in and the congestion, slow drivers and strangers invading our farms. The horse is already out of the barn! Don't get me wrong, I loved the Sammamish Valley 50 years ago, when one could hunt, trap and fish amongst the FARMS!


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