County proposes major rezoning of rural areas

CARNATION _ Late in December the King County Office of

Regional Policy and Planning (ORPP) issued a notice to numerous

residents of the county, including several in the Snoqualmie Valley, of proposed

zoning changes.

If implemented, residents whose lands border county-designated

Agricultural Production Districts or Forest Production Districts could see

their properties substantially downzoned. The proposed revision would

change their zoning from RA-2.5, -5 or -10 (one dwelling per 2.5, 5 or 10

acres) to RA-10 or -20. Such a move would radically limit the number of lots

the property owners _ or subsequent owners, such as their descendents _

could develop on their land.

The zoning change is part of the ongoing Draft 2000 Update to

the King County Comprehensive Plan. The timing of four public hearings

in January to discuss the proposal and revisions to the King County

Code leaves little room for respondents to get their comments in before the

Friday, Jan. 21 deadline.

The first public meeting was held on Jan. 6 on Vashon Island. The

second took place on Jan. 10 at Tolt Middle School. The Carnation

meeting was specifically set aside for comments on land use and zoning

issues and brought out a heavy crowd, with over 250 in the audience.

While some of the speakers were complimentary of King County's

efforts to preserve its rural landscape and forested areas, several expressed

concern and occasional anger over what they felt were unfair limitations

on their land use. Some spoke of their desire to pass their land on to

their families, while others said the proposal was another example of county

government run rampant.

"We bought our land with the hope that it could be passed on to our

children," said Jim Mayfield of Carnation. "I sense the bureaucracy in Seattle

regards rural lands as everyone's playground. I feel that attitude is part

of what allows them to introduce changes like this."

Others stated the proposed changes would drive land prices

up and force people off their own property, particularly the elderly.

One woman _ who declined to give her name _ expressed concern for the

future of her 84-year-old father's land.

"There are five of us kids, and nine grandchildren," she commented.

"We all want to stay in the Valley, but I

don't think we can afford to. He feels this will just benefit the wealthy.

The middle class can't afford 20 acres at these prices."

"We have to hear this. This is not a done deal," said Karen Wolf

of ORPP afterwards. "We're not out to hurt people.

"We've been seeing the potential for a lot of growth in the rural

areas. We're trying to cut back on lots, as a lot of people have moved out here

to stay in a rural environment. If we let everybody subdivide their land to

its potential, it won't be rural anymore."

"There are parcels of land within the areas which are already built

out to their maximum capacity," ORPP's Lori Grant said last Tuesday.

"So within the downzone the actual number of lots that will be affected

numbers about 1,000, comprising 32,221 acres. These lots would have

some restriction on their subdivision potential.

"The real effect is we're reducing the number of new lots that could

be created. There is a potential _ if everybody subdivided and built _

for 20,000 more houses out there, which is about a 30 percent increase over

the number of existing homes."

Grant said ORPP recognized the public's concern about the

proposal, but had to find some means of preventing encroachment without

penalizing small property owners.

"They may have bought [the properties] for the purpose of putting

a home in there," she added. "We're not trying to take away those people's

opportunity to have the home they've always dreamed of."

The third meeting of the public hearing series was held in Black

Diamond on Jan. 13, followed by a fourth and final public gathering at

the Preston Community Center on Wednesday, Jan. 19, at 7 p.m. The

latter session was limited to public discussion on code changes.

The public comment period for the Draft 2000 Update ends this

Friday, two days after the Preston meeting. The County Executive is scheduled

to deliver the completed update package to the King County Council on

March 1.

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