County to revitalize goals, priorities for land development

Whitman County planning looks for resident input; document has not been updated since 1978



The drafted comprehensive plan will be completed by June or July, then presented to the public. Around December, it will be presented to the county commissioners for approval.

MADYSEN MCLAIN, Evergreen roots editor

Whitman County officials are seeking public input to update its comprehensive plan that will determine priorities for land development in the next 20 years.

The county comprehensive plan focuses on goals and guidelines for improvement, including housing, transportation and environmental impacts, said Whitman County Planner Alan Thomson.

County commissioners adopted the first comprehensive plan in July 1978, he said. Besides a few amendments, the document has not been revised since.

The document focuses on the big picture items, and from there, the county can set codes and ordinances for development, Thomson said.

He said a drafted plan will be completed by June or July, then presented to the public. Around December, it will be presented to the county commissioners for approval.

“The document is well past its shelf life,” Thomson said.

County Commissioner Art Swannack said the county hired the engineering consulting company LDC, Inc. from Woodinville, Washington, to help with the year-long project.

Thomson said the county budgeted about $70,000 for the services.

Whitman County residents and WSU students are encouraged to provide input through an online survey, he said. Next month, public meetings will be held over Zoom to further collect resident opinions.

The survey asks for feedback on topics, such as rural quality of life, housing, parks and recreation, economic development, transportation and the environment. It should take about five to 10 minutes, Thomson said.

“We haven’t defined changes yet because we’re still searching for answers,” he said. “There’s no way to tell at this moment in time, we’re too early on in the process.” 

The plan can be amended in the future to accommodate changing technology, he said. When the county added cluster residential districts, grouping together residential properties on one site, the plan had no mention of it because those districts did not exist at the time.

In 1990, the Growth Management Act (GMA) required counties in Washington to create a comprehensive plan to help manage growing populations, according to the Whitman County website.

Whitman County, due to its rural nature, is not considered a fully planning county so the county does not need to develop plans for all topics required by Washington state, according to the website. However, every county must recognize natural resources, like forestry and agriculture, as well as other resources, like wetlands.

Although Pullman is an incorporated city that lies outside of the county’s jurisdiction, Pullman residents can still provide their thoughts about long-term goals. The city itself is also updating its strategic plan in the next few months, Thomson said.

“I think there’s some older language in the [comprehensive plan] that wasn’t necessarily perfect,” Swannack said. “We have an opportunity to make things simpler to deal with in some cases.”