Opinion

Queries about KingCo comp plan

As a rural landowner in the proposed "Priority Rural Forest

District," I attended public information

hearings at Carnation and Preston on the King County Comprehensive Plan.

Overall, I feel the intent is good: protect the quality of rural life. I, too, want to

protect low densities and forested areas in my area; [this is] what initially

drew me to this community. But at what cost and at whose cost do these

changes come? Being an owner of a small lot who will not be directly affected

by zoning changes, I was nonetheless shocked by what I learned.

A key change is the provision "to provide a buffer to legally

approved long-term mineral extraction sites"

and forest production areas. Why should rural landowners bear the burden

to buffer — in fact, subsidize — commercial activities that will negatively

impact their quality of life? Zoning, set backs and restrictions should be

the responsibility of the commercial ventures whose operations will profit

from the land use. If the commercial property cannot provide a buffer to its

own operations, then that use should be denied.

What is the point of a Priority Rural Forest District to protect a

Forest Production area? Why do individual landowners have to serve to buffer

the vast hundreds of thousands of acres of National Forest and timberland?

What does this really protect? It is not wildlife or trees. It limits the rural

landowners' use of land, so that Weyerhaeuser can clear-cut forests right next door.

While we will need to jump through ropes and submit a "forest

management plan," bad land management on a vast scale will be hidden from view.

Timber companies are happy for these zoning changes. A

Weyerhaeuser spokesman was quoted to say that having people live near logging puts

pressure on them: "Just about the time the log trucks start coming and the

chain saws begin to run, people's perspectives change."

We don't need a special categorization to practice sustainable

forestry on our properties. Where in the maps is the zoning that makes sense?

Buffer zones to rivers and streams to protect water quality and fish species?

Buffer zones to rural scenic areas like McCauley Falls, threatened by

mining? Lack of such buffers is contrary to the comp plan's intent of

preserving outstanding rural scenic and aesthetic values.

The proposed re-zoning reduces property value and restricts use of land.

People have been left with worthless parcels they can't timber or build on.

The county offers the timber credit program and the transfer of

development credit (TDC) program as compensation. But there is:

• Not enough credit to go around.

• No guaranteed right that you will be able to use them.

• No existing mechanism for rural owners to sell or trade credit.

• No automatic decrease in property tax assessments due to loss

of value.

The TDC program is completely theoretical: The funds appropriated

for this cannot be expended until the council defines use of the funds and

the procedure. Even if it is established, it is likely to be an agonizing

bureaucratic process for the typical owner. The reality is that a fraction of the

landowners affected will ever benefit from this. The only ones who will

benefit are the large and wealthy development companies who will have the

financial and legal resources to negotiate the laws and procedures to utilize

development credits for large scale projects.

By not providing adequate compensation for the re-zoning, the

county is essentially stealing from the poor to give to the rich. The county is not

automatically reducing property values because it will mean a loss of tax

revenue. Effectively, they steal property value from poor individual

landowners and give it to rich

"development" and "resource" corporations. This

rezoning just takes from us and allows Weyerhaeuser to develop the

Novelty Hill UPD _ a city bigger than Woodinville _ clearly outside the

urban growth line and totally contrary to the spirit of "preserving our

rural legacy." It allows mining companies like the Duvall Mining Co. to

develop properties that the rural taxpayer has to bear the burden of the costs of

increased infrastructure and decline in quality of life.

What we really need in the revised comp plan is a re-zoning

contingent upon a clear plan to compensate landowners:

• Automatic reduction in property assessments due to re-zoning based

on a clear and simple formula related to the loss of buildable lots.

• A functioning development credit bank.

• Guaranteed funding for county preservation purchases of land or

development rights.

• A clear system of valuation of land development credits.

• An easy, easy process of obtaining conservation and timber credits.

Also, in keeping with maintaining the quality of rural life:

• Deletion of buffer zones to mineral sites and commercial timberlands.

• Deletion of Novelty Hill UPD zoning.

• Deletion of Duvall Quarry mineral zoning.

• Funding and creation of a Comprehensive Preservation Plan for

the Snoqualmie Valley.

• Funding and planning for a Scenic Corridor designation for Route 203.

Joel Ohringer

Carnation

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