Doing it to us again

Record Editorial.

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

proposed amendments.

Jim McKiernan