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Regional task force resolves long-standing dispute over school siting

A 30-member task force representing a broad coalition of stakeholders from throughout the region has unanimously agreed on key recommendations for school siting in King County that call for future schools to be sited in urban areas and rural towns, rather than in areas designated as rural.

"These are thoughtful recommendations that will help deliver educational excellence for our children without sacrificing the environment of our rural areas. Education is the key to our economic future, and I thank rural residents, elected officials, school superintendents and experts who came together and worked over a period of four months to build consensus around these issues."

Dow Constantine, King County Executive

The School Siting Task Force evaluated the current inventory of 18 rural properties owned by eight school districts in King County that straddle the Urban Growth Boundary, which was established under the state Growth Management Act to protect rural farms and forests and prevent urban sprawl. The rural properties were purchased with an eye toward future growth by the Northshore, Lake Washington, Issaquah, Snoqualmie, Kent, Tahoma, Auburn, and Enumclaw School Districts.

The Task Force concluded that future schools should be sited in urban areas or rural towns, and made recommendations on whether each of the properties in question was suitable for development, for land swaps, or for public acquisition. The recommendations for the 18 sites reflect the spirit of the Growth Management Act, while considering the investments that school districts made in good faith to plan for growth.

The Task Force report recommends other strategies to support school districts in their mission and to encourage more integrated planning in the future. Members considered a wide range of technical information in developing their recommendations, including the public health benefits of siting schools closer to homes so that students can walk or bike to school, and demographic trends that show many school-aged populations in rural King County are on the decline.

The Task Force recommends that school districts be invited to participate in planning bodies like the Growth Management Planning Council (GMPC) and the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC). The recommendations set a course that is consistent with VISION 2040, the regional growth strategy adopted by the PSRC for King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Kitsap Counties.

Formation of the Task Force stems from an agreement between King County, Seattle, Bellevue, and the Suburban Cities Association in November to examine the question of whether sewer lines should be extended into rural areas, to accommodate schools that had planned for the future by purchasing rural property.

“My congratulations and thanks to members of the Task Force for a job well done,” said Executive Constantine. “Their unanimous recommendations are a strong statement of our collective desire to set aside differences and focus on sustainable growth and planning for the educational needs of our children.”

The Executive will review the task force recommendations and propose new Countywide Planning Policies for consideration by both the GMPC and the Metropolitan King County Council. The GMPC will review the policies in the spring. The County Council is expected to take final action on the new policies in September.

In April 2012, the School Siting Task Force issued a report based on their unanimous recommendation that calls for new schools to be built within urban growth areas to preserve the rural environment and support sustainable development.

Read the Final Report (PDF)

Read the Final Report Appendices (PDF - 25MB)

Read the News Release

Maps for undeveloped rural school sites

King County Executive
Dow Constantine
Dow constantine portrait

Read the Executive's biography