Builders Praise Buxbaum’s View on the Comp Plan


OLYMPIA, WA – Local builders at Olympia Master Builders (OMB) praised Olympia Mayor Stephen Buxbaum today for words spoken at a recent City Council work session to discuss revisions to the draft Comprehensive Plan Update. Buxbaum cautioned his fellow councilmembers against filling the Comprehensive Plan with too many specific and absolute requirements.

“If we’re attempting to require behavior on the part of individuals,” Buxbaum said, “I think we have to be absolutely clear what the consequences to the community at large that would compel us to require something. So it has to be pretty compelling.”

In recent written comments on the Comprehensive Plan Update, OMB, among others, advised the council against being too prescriptive—pointing out many instances of words like “require,” “must,” and “shall.”

“The more prescriptive we choose to be in the Comprehensive Plan, I think at some point we squeeze out creativity,” said Buxbaum. “We squeeze out, maybe, different alternative approaches. If we lean over on the side of being heavily prescriptive, I think there’s consequence to that.”

Commercial builder and chair of OMB’s Government Affairs Committee, Stuart Drebick, agrees. “The mayor is absolutely right. There are innovative and market-based solutions to the issues that the Comprehensive Plan is trying to address,” said Drebick. “Problems arise when planning documents such as the Comprehensive Plan mandate regulation, locking a builder into one way of doing things.  This prescriptive way of planning stifles the ingenuity and flexibility of the market.”

City staff explained to the council that when they see the word “require,” they immediately draft a regulation, rather than explore incentives or other means of achieving the plan’s goals. Most of the council agreed that the Comprehensive Plan should set broad policy goals, and that the subsequent action plan and development code updates are the appropriate times to think about regulations and incentives.

While the building community still has significant concerns about the draft plan – specifically regarding street connectivity language and minimum density requirements – they say that the document has improved since its introduction.

“We’re glad that they listened,” said Drebick. “We’re happy to see the public process have a noticeable and positive effect on the final product.”

Formed in 1959, Olympia Master Builders is a professional trade association dedicated to improving the construction industry and providing affordable housing for people in all economic segments.  OMB provides services in five counties:  Thurston, Lewis, Grays Harbor, Pacific and Mason.

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