The Growth Management Hearings Boards (Boards) are most likely consolidating into one board in an effort to improve efficiency and save money. The boards recently commissioned a study that recommended as such, and have provided the report to the governor. (caution: large PDF) I recently attended the November 12th meeting of the Puget Sound Regional Council’s Growth Management Advisory Board, and it would seem that this consolidation is moving forward.
The proposed changes include cutting the number of board members from nine to seven, but to retain “regional panels.” As the Boards acknowledge, their workload is going to grow, not shrink over the coming years, so the impact of consolidation may slow the resolution of several growth management appeals and other matters over which the Boards have jurisdiction.
Also, one of the interesting recommendations (again, nothing is set in stone yet) is to bring the consolidated board within the Environmental Hearings Office (EHO), which currently houses the Pollution Control Hearings Board, the Shorelines Hearings Board, the Forest Practices Appeals Board, Hydraulic Appeals Board, and the Environmental and Land Use Hearings Board. Perhaps if this recommendation goes through, we could expect more consolidation within the EHO at a later date. However, I expect that this recommendation is meeting with resistance from, in part, intra-agency resistance between Department of Ecology, Department of Natural Resources, and Department of Commerce.
More to come as this issue develops.