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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.