County proposes rezoning of rural properties

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.

Property owners whose land is currently zoned RA-2.5, -5 or -10 _ or rural, one

dwelling unit per 2.5, 5 or 10 acres _ received the announcement.

The proposed revision would change their zoning to RA-10 or

-20 _ or one dwelling unit per 10 or 20 acres _ for properties

bordering county-designated Agricultural Production Districts or Forest

Production Districts. If adopted, the change would radically limit the number of lots

that property owners _ or subsequent owners _ could develop on their land.

The county indicated as much, stating in its notice, "This

proposed zoning change will not effect your ability to build on your property,

but it may restrict your ability to subdivide your property into smaller lots."

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 leaves little room for respondents to get their comments in

before the Friday, Jan. 21, deadline.

The first public meeting was held on Thursday, Jan. 6, on Vashon

Island. The second took place last Monday night at Tolt Middle School. The

Carnation meeting was specifically set aside for comments on land use

and zoning issues and was heavily attended, with over 250 in the audience.

Many of the participants took the microphone to give their comments

to the representatives from the ORPP. 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.

Many of the speakers told of their desire to pass their land on to

their descendents. Others said the proposal was another example of county

government run rampant, adding in the end only the rich would be able to

afford the larger rural tracts.

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

children," said property owner 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."

Wolf estimated approximately 6,200 property owners

throughout King County would be affected by the zoning change if it is approved by

the county council.

A third meeting will be held in Black Diamond on Thursday, 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 will be open

to discussion on code changes only. The public comment period for the

Draft 2000 Update ends 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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