Opinion

Community hearing a chance to be heard

I believe it is of the utmost importance to protect the character of our rural communities while at the same time recognizing the right of owners to enjoy their property. That is one of the reasons I am looking forward to chairing an upcoming review of county land use policies and to invite you to come speak at a community hearing in Snoqualmie on Thursday, March 20.

Every four years King County must conduct a major update of the King County Comprehensive Plan, the set of policies by which we manage growth in the unincorporated areas, both urban and rural, and establish policy on such issues as annexations, transportation, and the environment. The King County Council is now beginning its in-depth review and analysis of this major policy document, and as chair of the King County Council's Growth Management and Natural Resources Committee, I have the distinct honor of leading the Council through this process.

I am excited to start this review because of some innovative and groundbreaking proposals sent to us by the County Executive. King County is already a national standard bearer for regional planning. These proposed policies address the challenges facing us now and in the near future, including climate change, food systems planning, the Puget Sound Partnership, the county's HealthScape Program, and equity and social justice.

To provide new opportunities for rural property owners, proposed amendments to the Comp Plan include several new approaches regarding the transfer of development rights, including a Rural and Resource Lands Preservation Program. This innovative proposal would allow private rural property owners to sell the rights to develop their land to developers in the urban and higher density areas.

New proposals also call for what we believe to be the county's first program to evaluate projects for their effect on climate change, and to reduce the county's greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent of current levels by 2050.

I am perhaps most intrigued by the Executive's effort to integrate his newly-announced Equity and Social Justice Initiative with our land use policies. For the first time, we plan to actively address, wherever possible, some of the social inequities that exist in our county through proposed changes in land use policies. For example, by adopting policies that provide greater protections for the small farmers who produce the basic foods for sale in

urban communities, we are better able to support family farms and keep the cost of food down for poor and working-class families throughout our region.

We are ready to begin this rigorous process of review, but we cannot do it without your insights and input. I have scheduled five special evening meetings in the rural and urban unincorporated areas across the county starting this month to hear your comments or concerns.

Our first hearing will be held in your community on Thursday, March 20 at the Snoqualmie Middle School Commons, 9200 Railroad Ave S.E. Each hearing begins with an open house at 6 p.m., with the public hearing scheduled to run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Your participation is critical. If you are unable to attend, we will also be taking public testimony at regularly scheduled meetings of the Growth Management Committee throughout the spring and summer, or you can submit your testimony online by following the links from www.kingounty.gov/council. I look forward to hearing from you.

* Larry Gossett is chair of the King County Council's Growth Management and Natural Resources Committee and is leading the 2008 Update of the King County Comprehensive Plan. Learn more at www.kingcounty.gov/council/comprehensive_plan.aspx

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