P>Once again members of our County Council feel the need to tweak
things in our district. This time, though, it’s a serious tweak of our
comprehensive plan, the plan used to guide growth in our area — the same plan that
others have been forced to adhere to for years when confronting development.
But now, Councilman Chris Vance, representing the Kent and Auburn district,
would like 130 acres on Rattlesnake Ridge to be rezoned from Forest Production
and RA-10 designations to RA-5 so that additional, upscale homes, similar to
those in the Uplands, can be built.
First, where in the heck does Chris Vance fit into the picture? He has
nothing to do with anyone out here other than being asked by the property
owners to represent their interests. Did he bother to tell his counterpart, David
Irons Jr., who has everything to do with this part of the county, about this
proposed amendment? No. If I were a member of the council, I would begin to
distance myself from Mr. Vance because he obviously didn’t do his homework.
Additional development along Rattlesnake Ridge will increase
flooding conditions. Groundwater runoff will increase, as will silt and debris. As
anyone who knows anything about our area would tell you, the South Fork of
the Snoqualmie River is already feeling the impacts of development with
Forster Woods and the Uplands. We really haven’t felt the impacts of those
developments to their full extent yet because we haven’t had serious flooding
since they were built. But, alas, this could be the year.
Beyond the environmental impacts of Vance’s proposal are the tax
ramifications. One of the parcels, 50 acres uphill from Forster Woods, has
been designated Forest Production, and with that designation comes substantial
tax breaks. In addition to tax breaks, there is revenue to be gained from
harvesting the trees — revenue that supports our school system and creates jobs.
Would the proposal fly if the ramification was to retroactively bill the
landowners for taxes at the proposed zoning designation from the time of the
change back to the last change or until they took ownership? It only seems fair that
if you had tax breaks on a parcel of land for 25 years with the knowledge that
it could only be used for forest production, that when the designation changes
to something more valuable, you pay the taxes retroactively. Heck, if the
logic that is being applied to the rezoning is valid, then I’m sure there are
many landowners in the Valley that would prefer to have their designation
changed to forest production for the tax benefits, with the realization that it can
be changed again later.
If the proposals sponsored by Vance, along with supporting council
members Rob McKenna and Kent Pullen, are introduced, hopefully the other
council members have enough common sense to understand the negative
impacts they will have. By the way, did any of you three, Vance, McKenna or
Pullen, read the 1,000 Friends of Washington report? Is urban sprawl what you
want, or common-sense, methodical growth?
One point to keep in mind, though, is that of the landowner. I cannot
fault the Zemp or Yerkes families from maximizing their investment. I’m sure if
I were the property owner, I would do the same. I am also aware of the
Zemp family’s involvement in making the Upper Valley what it is — a great place
to live. But we can fault Chris Vance for even contemplating these