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Rural changes approved to foster business

King County adopted new laws Oct. 1 that increase opportunities for residents of rural areas to use their land for home-based businesses as part of the 2006 update to the King County Comprehensive Plan.

"One of the desires expressed by rural residents was greater ability to make a living from a small home-based business on their property," said Councilmember Dow Constantine, chair of the council's Growth Management and Natural Resources Committee.

The county hosted public meetings through the summer to gather input on proposed rule changes designed to allow more small-business opportunities in rural areas.

The changes adopted increase the number of employees who can work both on and off site; expand the area that can be used for the storage of equipment and vehicles; and adjust the limits on the number of vehicles that may be kept on-site.

"Rural residents want to move beyond the boutique and cottage businesses that are associated with rural areas," Constantine said. "The growth of landscaping and contracting companies, as well as the increase in the number of people operating mail order and online businesses, means adjusting the comprehensive plan to accommodate a new aspect of the rural economy."

The changes do not include revisions related to wineries, nurseries and forest practices in the Rural Economic Strategy Report recently given to the council by King County Executive Ron Sims.

Those proposed changes are in a separate ordinance the council is expected to consider in 2007. They also received some opposition from rural residents concerned that they would allow large businesses to operate in rural areas in a way that would ruin the rural character. Others felt the winery, nursery and forest practice changes were needed to stimulate the rural economy and prevent rural areas from being developed into suburban estates.

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