Queries about KingCo comp plan
October 3, 2008 · Updated 1:46 AM
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
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
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.