http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2008042583_thursletters10.html

 

Here are a few letters to the editor from this morning’s Seattle Times in response to the Appeals Court ruling on King County’s CAO.

 

In looking at the third letter, we’re left wondering if the author is the same Mark Johnson who is representing Jefferson County in the defense of their CAO.  He seems to feel that individual property owners will have to prove that their clearing of more than 35% of their land doesn’t harm critical areas.  How about reversing that?  Shouldn’t King County have to demonstrate that clearing more than 35% would cause harm?


Letters to the Editor

A sampling of readers' letters, faxes and e-mail.

A critical ordinance

Ruling protects the constitutional rights of King County citizens

Editor, The Times:

Regarding the excellent ruling by the appellate court ["Court says rural-land restrictions go too far," Times, page one, July 8] it is nice to see that some leaders actually stand up for the rights of minorities, in this case, rural homeowners.

It is unconscionable that King County Executive Ron Sims would take 65 percent of all that someone owns without paying one penny for it. If their yards, farms, homes and property are as truly essential or "critical" as Sims claims, then we, the people, should purchase their land. Americans do not steal from their neighbors.

Councilmember Larry Gossett claimed that one of the benefits of the critical-areas ordinance was that it gave rural homeowners "predictability."

To know that the police powers of the state could take 65 percent of all of your possessions would also give us a sense of predictability, but it would still be unconstitutional. The ordinance took 65 percent of the savings from thousands of our fellow citizens, without "just compensation having first been made," as required by the first article of our state constitution. The court's ruling that the county must prove on a site-by-site basis the rough proportionality of the taking of private property is correct.

The county doesn't need to do what is convenient for government staff, but what is constitutional and right for the people.

— Apollo Fuhriman, Bothell

Spirit of ordinance can be preserved

The ruling by the three-judge panel of the Washington state Court of Appeals affirms what many of us in rural King County have been writing about and speaking to for years. Limiting what property owners can do on up to 65 percent of their property, without compensation, to benefit public ecological objectives, is recognized in the ruling as "an indirect but illegal 'tax, fee or charge' on development."

But the benefits of these restrictions need not all be lost.

King County's Public Benefit Rating System needs to be expanded to include managing property in a way that helps restore the health of Puget Sound by maintaining healthy watersheds. The system already provides substantial tax breaks to landowners for a number of activities deemed to be in the public interest, including providing habitat for endangered or threatened species and allowing public access for wildlife viewing.

Also, the county's surface-water-management fees are reduced for property owners who improve aquifer recharge by controlling groundwater runoff in excess of legal regulations.

Expanding the tax benefits of the Public Benefit Rating System to this new area will encourage many rural property owners, including this writer, to meet or exceed the critical-areas ordinance limitations on development, now voided by the court's decision.

That there is no free lunch has long been recognized: Expecting rural property owners in King County to "pick up the check" for the "free lunch" of county groundwater quality is an overdue extension of that principle.

— William Beck, Maple Valley

Ruling a wrong move; burden falls on owners

The state Court of Appeals has placed an incredible new burden on rural King County property owners and they, for some reason, are celebrating. The county is required by state law to protect critical areas and has passed laws that are intended to do so in a manner that spreads the burden fairly.

The Court of Appeals has rejected the prescriptive approach approved by the Metropolitan King County Council as an unfair tax, and indicated that an individual evaluation is necessary to fairly determine what standards should apply to each property.

So be it.

The alternative we are left with is that every property owner who wants to remove a significant amount of forest vegetation from their property be required to demonstrate that their action does not increase the likelihood of flooding, inhibit infiltration of groundwater, increase the temperature or pollutant loads of surface-water runoff, increase erosion or adversely affect salmon or other critical habitat. I am surprised that the Republican council members are so excited about this prospect.

These types of studies are expensive, and since it is already known that removal of significant amounts of forest does have these types of adverse effects in most cases, people who pay for studies will likely see that the use of their land will still be restricted anyway — maybe more, maybe less.

— Mark Johnson, Seattle

 

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