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Area residents confront King County Council members on hot topics

The citizens of rural King County were not happy campers Sept. 25 at the Metropolitan King County Council meeting at the Girl Scout Camp River Ranch in Carnation.

More than 100 people showed up, in addition to local government officials, to express complaints about citations received for various violations on their properties and the county's requirement for permits to manage private property, among several other issues.

King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert said people should speak frankly about their concerns.

Many of those who attended did just that, airing grievances they have about the way King County governs its rural areas.

Tove and Ray Burhen both stepped forward to make a complaint about a letter received from the county Sept. 11 ordering them to remove farm machinery from their property. According to Tove, the couple owns 75 acres of farm land where they keep numerous pieces of machinery, some in use, some antiques and some that are used for parts. The letter stated that if the machinery was not removed within 21 days, the Burhen's would be fined.

Attempting to talk it out, Ray contacted the county only to find that the one person with whom he could discuss the issue had gone on vacation. Instead, he brought the issue to the meeting.

"None of the machines can be seen by neighbors, nor passersby, nor from the road," Tove said.

"They're all intact and could be usable," Ray said. One particular piece of the machinery the county mentioned in the letter as being a trash compactor is actually a hay bailer, he added.

Not wanting to pay the fine, Ray also doesn't want to get rid of the machinery, which is worth a good chunk of money. He suggested the county find available property and create a park to display antique machines, but if that doesn't happen, he said he will have to get rid of the equipment unless the county will rescind the letter.

Another man from south of Issaquah stood to complain about the home-based business code changes to the King County code, which are part of the 2006 Rural Economic Strategies Code Changes Package. According to the changes, the total outdoor area of a home occupation can't exceed 1 percent of the size of the lot up to a maximum of 5,000 square feet. In addition, only one vehicle is permitted to pick up materials used by a home business or distribute products from the site, and the vehicle can't be parked within any required setback areas of the lot or adjacent streets. The vehicle also can't exceed a weight capacity of 1 ton, except on lots at least five acres in size, in which case the weight can't exceed 2.5 tons.

"I'm limited to 810 square feet of property," the man said. "I have 81,000 plus square feet of property." He added that he didn't know what the 1-ton law means, but that his vehicle far exceeds the limit advocated for a simple, fair amount of property.

Edwina Johnston spoke up about the number of permits and expense required to do anything with her property. Now 73 years old, she stated that when she retired, she made an investment in one-half an interest in 30 acres of rural land. Two years ago, the county took away the use of 65 percent of that land through the passage of the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO), and now the county is taking away more and making it too expensive for her to do anything with what remains. As an example, she said she had wanted to build a 40-foot driveway. After getting permits and hiring contractors who informed her of the need for more permits, she said she would have had to spend $74,000 for a driveway.

David Reed of Fall City's Lake Alice community said he is one of 240 residents asking the county to stop the connection of Snoqualmie Ridge to Lake Alice Road.

"It's a narrow, rural road," Reed said. It has a county-maintained hiking trail, and right now the speed limit is 15 mph. "This speaks to the rural character of our neighborhood," he said.

Others stepped up to express anger about the CAO under which 50 to 65 percent of a homeowner's property, depending on the size of the lot, must be left in its natural state. Several people promoted Initiative 933, the Property Fairness Initiative, which protests regulations imposed in the CAO.

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