Sunday, April 10, 2005, 12:00 a.m. Pacific
Washington vote wouldn't come until '06
If Washington votes on an initiative like Oregon's Measure 37, it won't be before November 2006.
Representatives of several Washington property-rights groups met with Measure 37's sponsor in Olympia in January to discuss running a similar initiative here. But Dan Wood of the Washington State Farm Bureau, which is leading the effort, says they concluded there wasn't enough time to draft and file an initiative, collect signatures and organize a campaign for a vote this fall.
The court battle over last year's governor's race also was a factor, says Bainbridge Island property-rights activist Gary Tripp. It's consuming the time and resources of some groups interested in pushing a Measure 37-style initiative.
Tripp and Wood say the property-rights coalition hasn't decided whether to file an initiative to the people, which would go straight to the ballot, or an initiative to the Legislature, which would become law without an election if legislators approve it. If they don't, voters would decide.
Defenders of the state's land-use laws already are gearing up for a fight. Three environmental groups commissioned a statewide poll earlier this year that they say shows no groundswell for a Washington initiative.
Property-rights backers tried to transform the way the state regulates private property a decade ago. They pushed an initiative through a Republican-dominated Legislature in 1995, but environmentalists and other opponents gathered enough signatures to force a referendum.
Foes said the initiative was poorly drafted and could result in more bureaucracy and higher taxes. In November 1995 voters overturned it by a 60-40 ratio.
Then, as now, the chief target of property-rights advocates was the state's 1990 Growth Management Act and regulations counties have adopted to comply with it. This year many have been galvanized by King County's new Critical Areas Ordinance, which requires rural landowners to leave up to 65 percent of their land in native vegetation.
The Growth Management Act borrowed much from the land-use laws Oregon pioneered. Both states' programs require urban-growth boundaries and discourage development outside them. Both single out farms and forests for special protection.
But the state plays a bigger role in writing the rules in Oregon. In Washington, local governments' growth-management decisions are final unless they are appealed.
And some of Oregon's regulations are more stringent. One example: Oregon ties approval for even one new house on most Willamette Valley farmland to how much farm income the property generates. Measure 37's supporters often cite that as an example of regulation run wild.
Leonard Bauer, managing director of Washington's growth-management-services division, says there's nothing similar in this state.
— Eric Pryne