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Snoqualmie considers opposing
Snoqualmie city leaders debated taking a stance against Washington State Farm Bureau-backed Initiative 933. However, council members decided they needed more information before taking a stance on the issue and delayed a vote until their next meeting Aug. 14.
"I thought I was a public servant, not a politician," said Bob Jeans, council member.
Jeans said he was uncomfortable taking a stance on a statewide issue beyond the city's jurisdiction.
"I feel like a fish out of water," he said.
Councilmember Kathi Prewett said the initiative gets at the heart of the city's ability to conduct planning and zoning.
"This has huge consequences if it's passed," she said.
Mayor Matt Larson said the city has a responsibility to let its residents know how they could be affected by statewide legislation, such as the proposed initiative, when it affects the city's ability to govern.
I-933, the "property fairness" initiative, concerns government regulation of private property. If passed, the initiative would roll back zoning to pre-1996, prior to the adoption of the state's Growth Management Act. City, county and state governments would have to pay property owners for any restrictions placed on their land or choose not to enforce them.
The initiative also would require governments to allow actions such as dike building, tree cutting and other activities currently barred in areas deemed environmentally sensitive or pay for the lost property value. The cost of new regulations to private property owners must also be considred and studied prior to adoption, according to the initiative language.
The Washington Farm Bureau said the initiative is in response to years of heavy-handed land use regulation. It was inspired in part by
a sweeping property-rights measure passed overwhelmingly by Oregon voters in 2004.
Nancy Tucker, Snoqual-mie's director of planning,
said the initiative would have "devastating consequences" on city planning.
The resolution being considered for adoption by the city said the initiative's definition of "damaging the use or value" was defined so broadly that local jurisdictions would be deprived of their ability to adopt and enforce reasonable land use regulations; including comprehensive planning and zoning to ensure that properties were being used in a manner compatable to their neighborhood and weren't damaging the environment or hurting public health and safety.
"[I-933] would virtually cripple the regulatory authority of the city," said Snoqualmie City Attorney Pat Anderson.
State law gives cities one venue to take a stance on initiatives, which is by passing a resolution stating the city's position, he said.
Otherwise, elected city officials may only comment when asked for their opinion on an issue by constituents or the media.
Larson said the consequences of the initiative were serious enough that if it passed without the city taking a stand against it, they would be looking back wishing they'd done more.
Councilmember Jeff Mac-Nichols said that although he thinks I-933 probably swings the pendulum too far toward the property-rights side, the proposed city resolution wouldn't serve any true purpose because its scope is beyond its jurisdiction.
"Either we will begrudgingly implement [I-933] or happily see it fail," MacNichols said.
Councilmember Charles Peterson said he was pretty sure how he personally would vote on the initiative, which he dubbed a "flawed document." However, he said the election is a long way off and the council could stand to do more research before taking action.
Initiative Measure 933 concerns government regulation of private property. This measure would require compensation when government regulation damages the use or value of private property, would forbid regulations that prohibit existing legal uses of private property, and would provide exceptions or payments. Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ]
Ballot Measure Summary
This measure would require government agencies to consider the effects of and alternatives to regulating private property. Compensation would be required when regulations are enforced that damage private property use or value, including regulations prohibiting or restricting property uses that were allowed as of January 1, 1996. Exceptions would exist for regulations applying equally to all property subject to the agency's jurisdiction. Development regulations that would prohibit existing legal property uses would not be permitted.
For more information, visit www.NOon933.org or http://www.propertyfairness.com.