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
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
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
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.
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
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-
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,
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
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,