Opinion

Another tool to control private land

Big disappointment with the new Democrat-sponsored amended Public Benefits Rating system (PBRS) proposal that was publicized as an incentive for landowners having to implement the Democrat's adopted King County Critical Areas Ordinance package.

Instead of complying with state law, the Nov. 2 proposal hands over to Ron Sims' "department of natural resources and parks or its successor" the entire PBRS classification and valuation process. It's as if King County had never heard of RCW 84.34.037, which requires that valuations be done by the assessor and open-space actions "be acted upon in the same manner in which an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan is processed." This means "Big Process" by the County Council, not by DNR&P.

The worst aspect is that existing PBRS-covered open space and agricultural properties are to be revaluated by DNR&P, with program reacceptance being conditioned upon mandatory enrollment into rural stewardship or farm management plans. Those plans must be approved by DNR&P, assisted by the hated Department of Development and Environmental Services (DDES).

Unlike our existing PBRS program, the new proposal does not describe the holding period or back taxes, 12-percent interest and 20-percent penalty that attaches to those who fail to follow state-specified program withdrawal procedures.

The 25 pages of this new PBRS proposal are replete with "going beyond" requirements, including that "more than seventy-five percent of the property" with an approved farm management plan must be "actively farmed," despite the state rule allowing 50 percent of a farm to be in a woodlot and still covered by PBRS.

CARA (Critical Aquifer Recharge Areas) provisions are especially onerous, since adopted county CARA criteria go far beyond what the state requires. So when the county, for PBRS participation, goes beyond the already-going-beyond county CARA regulations that have turned high, dry, level, nonconstrained land into a new critical areas category, you've got real land lockup. Ditto for wildlife habitat critical areas and their buffers.

The so-called "helpful" PBRS revisions have turned into just one more tool for Ron Sims and his bureaucrats to smash rural landowners with an ungloved fist to absolutely control private land.

Maxine Keesling

Woodinville

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