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CAO opponents get needed signatures for referendum

SNOQUALMIE VALLEY - Opponents of restrictive new King County property regulations who argue their land is being stolen say they have enough signatures to take their case to the voters.

Rodney McFarland, president of the Citizens Alliance for Private Property Rights, said last week his group has collected and internally validated more than the 6,891 signatures required to seek a referendum on the land use measures.

"We definitely have enough," he said, adding that more than 8,600 signatures have been collected. The group's initial goal was 12,000.

The deadline to turn in the signatures to the King County Clerk is Dec. 30. McFarland, who lives in May Valley, said they haven't yet decided what day they will turn in the petitions.

Last month, a caravan of about 50 trucks, many hauling horse trailers, stopped traffic on Seattle's busy Fourth and Fifth avenues during the noon hour to bring their protest to the county courthouse.

Whether the referendum will ever get to voters is still a question.

The county and two environmental groups filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court claiming that a referendum isn't a legal way to overturn environmental legislation required by the state's Growth Management Act. Court arguments are scheduled for Jan. 14.

The signatures were collected from residents in unincorporated King County who would be the only ones allowed to vote in a March ballot on the three referendums. That's because the new regulations affect only them.

Called the Critical Areas Ordinance, the CAO sets up new regulations governing land use in critical environmental areas such as wetlands. There is also companion legislation governing surface water runoff and grading and clearing.

The ordinances have touched off a storm of protest from rural King County residents with undeveloped property who say the new regulations unfairly target them.

The new regulations require that rural property owners leave 50 percent or 65 percent of their land in a relatively natural state, depending on the plot's size.

McFarland said the county's own mapping shows there are no environmental problems that need to be addressed, so why not continue to use existing rules?

Under the state's Growth Management Act, counties and cities are required to review and, if necessary, update their land use regulations for critical areas.

Mike Archbold can be reached at mike.archbold@kingcountyjournal.com or at (253) 872-6647.

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