County to appeal ruling that struck down rural land-clearing ordinance

King County Executive Ron Sims will ask the state Supreme Court to review an appeals-court ruling that struck down a tough critical-areas ordinance limiting land-clearing in rural areas.

Seattle Times staff reporter

King County Executive Ron Sims and the Metropolitan King County Council's Republican minority moved in opposite directions Thursday in response to an appeals-court ruling that struck down the county's tough restrictions on land-clearing in rural areas.

Sims, a Democrat, announced the county will ask the state Supreme Court to review a Court of Appeals decision that said the county can't require landowners throughout the rural area to keep native vegetation on 50 to 65 percent of their land.

"If this ruling stands, it will have far-reaching and negative impacts on local governments' ability to regulate land use to protect people, their property and their quality of life," Sims said in a prepared statement.

The four Republicans on the County Council meanwhile introduced legislation to repeal the clearing and grading ordinance that is part of a 2004 package of laws restricting development around critical areas such as rivers, wetlands and steep slopes.

Reagan Dunn, chairman of the council's Republican caucus, said the ordinance "was rammed down the throats of rural landowners in a very close vote, and it did not involve a very effective public process."

Dunn acknowledged the Democratic majority won't like the ordinance, but he urged work toward a compromise.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled Monday on a lawsuit brought by the Citizens' Alliance for Property Rights. The judges ruled that the clearing ordinance violated a state law prohibiting local governments from imposing "a tax, fee, or charge" on development under most circumstances.

Before the county restricts how much land a property owner can clear for lawn or pasture, the court said, it must show that clearing a particular property would cause some kind of harm.

The ordinance remains in effect during the appeal.

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or



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