Changes needed in county CAO

Ben Cape, our respected reporter, has done a good job of outlining the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) portion of the county's Comprehensive Plan updates in this newspaper. Ben did his best to talk to both sides, and many have thrown out their opinions on the good and bad points of the plan.

The county needs to reconsider the changes proposed for several reasons.

First, the application of the proposed changes needs to be the same across the county regardless of whether you own property in a rural or urban area. Fish habitat is everyone's responsibility and shouldn't burden rural property owners any more than an urban property owner. So if the same stream setbacks could be applied to all property, it would make the changes more palatable. People may even consider the 65-35 rule on use of property as well as the impervious surface limitations if they knew they were being equally applied.

It's doubtful that the county will consider equability in the application of the proposed changes, but it is something to consider.

Beyond the idea of equal responsibility for the environment is how the CAO will give large property owners in East King County a far bigger advantage when developing. A planned unit development such as Snoqualmie Ridge is much more feasible under the CAO proposed changes than the home builder who has a few acres or the individual property owner who wants to build a house for their mother-in-law on their property. Large developments can shift their planning toward the 65-35 rules, accommodating the desire to maintain a rural lifestyle.

Oops, did I say that? The future of East King County will now be large, planned unit developments supporting the rural lifestyle? I'm sure Quadrant is already eyeing the 5,000-acre section of the tree farm they own for a future planned urban development.

It also was interesting to note that the only supportive land owner that we could find, who would be impacted by the regulations, was in Woodinville. That same land owner stated their property values had increased as a result of the limitations, so my assumption would be that her property taxes also went up? It seems to me a bit hypocritical to say that the proposed CAO changes are great when the person doesn't have any property that will be impacted. Of course those same people will argue that we are all impacted by development, which is true, but the property we are talking about impacting is also not in the public sector. It is owned by someone paying property taxes, with rights to develop their land and protect their investment.

Aaaah, then comes the stewardship plan the county offers as a way to exceed the limitations. The county will oversee the plan development and give a thumbs up or thumbs down. This whole process boils down to one thing and that is curbing growth in East King County, regardless of the impacts to individual property rights.

So here is an idea: Let's split the voting for the CAO into two parts. Let's have those council representatives who are impacted by the urban changes, vote yea or nay on those changes, and those council members representing landowners impacted by the rural changes vote on those.

With the proposed changes to the CAO, property already developed will significantly increase in value. Small parcels, undeveloped, will lose their investment value and the only development that will occur will be large, planned unit developments. The proposed changes are too intrusive into personal property rights and need to be postponed until the real impacts, by parcel, are understood by the entire council.

So I am adding one more opinion to the mix along with a few others. But not enough people are stepping forward to voice their opinions. Write letters, call council representatives and get informed. Apathy has no place in East King County.

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