NORTH BEND _ It all comes down to property rights, and
Richard Zemp says it’s his right to try and get his property rezoned so it can be
The lifelong North Bend resident wants 50 of his 163 acres in
unincorporated King County that borders land annexed by the city of North Bend
to be rezoned from forest production (F) to rural-residential, with a home
every five acres (RA-5).
He stated that because of county zoning problems and a city error,
his land can no longer be forested. Therefore, he should be able to have
the property rezoned so he can fulfill his vision for the land.
Currently, the rezoning effort is in the form of an amendment to the
King County Comprehensive Plan, which governs the county’s actions and
is undergoing its next phase of changes. The amendment is called “I-90 B”
and was crafted by Metropolitan King County Councilman Chris Vance.
It could be adopted, or at the very least discussed, at the first two
County Council meetings in December. By the end of the year, changes to the
comprehensive plan must be finalized.
A second amendment, also sponsored by Vance, called “I-90 A,”
proposes that 80 acres owned by the Yerkes family be rezoned from
RA-10 to RA-5. The property lies close to Zemp’s land.
In the last few weeks there has been an outcry against the
proposed rezoning from the city of North Bend and Forster Woods residents.
The North Bend City Council drafted a resolution stating that the
city opposes the rezoning of Zemp’s property because the area could be
flood-prone and cause landslides and other impacts on neighboring
properties, which are within city limits. Zemp’s property is part of
unincorporated King County, a fact that North Bend officials said could end up
affecting the city.
Zemp bought the property in 1995 from Weyerhaeuser. The land is
located just south of Interstate 90, off of Exit 31. The 50 acres proposed to
be rezoned lie between two housing developments and the
Rattlesnake Mountain Natural Conservancy Area, which is jointly owned by
King County and the state Department of Natural Resources. From an
aerial view, the property looks like the missing piece of a pie because of the
two housing subdivisions.
For now, Zemp wants to rezone his slice of the pie, and maybe later
develop it. Since he was diagnosed with cancer a year and a half ago, he
said he has had time to think about the stewardship of the land he and
his wife, Roseanne, have owned. One thing he’d like to do is rezone
this piece of property because he sees the current zoning as incorrect.
“The lands from I-90 southwest on Rattlesnake Mountain were
never, ever urban until I-90 came through and never, ever urban until North
Bend approached King County and asked for the annexation of the
Forster Woods properties and final approval of the R-8 and R-48 zoning,
which threw a massive, high urban-density [development] right against the
forest zone,” Zemp said at a Nov. 13 county hearing.
“Now my reading of the comp plan and urban growth policy is that’s
a direct violation, it’s a conflict,” he added. “And I’d like to help
correct the comp plan. I’d like to help the county make that adjustment so that
it doesn’t occur in other parts of the county.”
Zemp’s attorney, Mike Spense, said his client’s 50 acres is
surrounded by R-10, R-5, R-8 and R-48 zoning, which he said makes the parcel
inconsistent with the county comprehensive plan. Rezoning it would mean
the county would finally be in compliance with its own rules, he explained.
“It is truly an island of forestry-zoned property and it doesn’t
make sense,” Spense said at a County Council hearing on proposed
comprehensive-plan amendments. “It really is
an odd situation, and, in fact, it may be the only situation in King
County where forestry zoned land directly abuts the urban-growth area.”
If the County Council approves the rezoning amendment, Zemp wants
to give right-of-way access on 11 acres running next to Forster Woods to
the county to provide access to Rattlesnake Mountain Natural
Conservancy Area trails, which some county officials have expressed an interest in
In an interview, Zemp explained that the trail access would be part
of his effort in helping the Valley, as were past actions of donating land
to Children’s Services of Sno-Valley so a facility could be built, buying
land along the newly-built I-90 in the 1970s when the town was undergoing
major change and hardship, and contributing part of Meadowbrook Farm
to open space.
Local residents and North Bend city officials are concerned that
Exit 31 would be burdened by extra traffic that any future development
on Zemp’s property would bring. However, Zemp explained that there
would be about 10 houses on the 50 acres — the maximum allowed under
RA-5 zoning — and the amount of traffic generated by those homes would
not be severe.
In response to city officials and neighbors who said the property is
a flood and erosion hazard, he said it’s premature for anyone to attack
plans for his property. Before any potential problems with the land can be
declared, Zemp explained a proposal to develop the property must go
through the State Environmental Policy Act process and be studied and
analyzed by experts and the county. If problems were found, the environmental
review process would require mitigation to prevent impact on neighboring
“You can claim all of [those impacts would occur], but until
technically addressed, it’s misinformation that, in my opinion, has no
substance until the proposal comes in,” he said.
About 70 percent of the land has been logged, and minimal trees
would need to be removed to construct a subdivision of about 10 homes,
Zemp said, adding that the rest of the property would be left alone, as it is
too steep to sustain development.
Tree buffers already exist along productive and dry streambeds,
some up to 300 feet wide. Zemp said the slope on his property is less than
some streets in Forster Woods, which have almost twice the grade.
He also questions why two North Bend city streets, complete with
full utilities, dead-end at his property line, as if to be continued into a future
Spense believes the land is useless if it is not rezoned. Successfully
harvesting the land’s timber would be difficult, Zemp said, because of the
noise and proximity to Forster Woods and Uplands. Without the proposed
rezoning, there is no other use for the land.
Even if he were to harvest timber, Zemp still feels King County made
an error when it previously zoned his land, and he simply wants it fixed
to bring it in line with surrounding parcels.
“All I’m asking for is a correction in land use,” he added.