Now that I-933, the property fairness initiative, has qualified for the ballot, the opposition is turning on some serious heat. It is rather amazing to me what is coming out of the “No” campaign: The “billions” it will cost; how it will strip local government of vast powers; how developers will stripmine the landscape near our children’s schools. Of particular note is the way public-interest lawyers have pulled the “hidden effects” out of the simple text. One lawyer says its possible the clean air act could not be enforced if 933 were to pass.
I am on the board of the lead King County group pushing 933. I had a minor part in its writing and was present at the meetings leading up to the presentation of the imitative. I saw nary a hint of the conspiracy being advertised. Wording is straightforward. The initiative establishes a land use regulation threshold or baseline of that which existed as of Jan 1, 1996. Common law nuisances would not be allowed under 933. Big-box stores or industrial uses would not be allowed in neighborhoods. In King County, almost no zoning is affected because the vast majority of downzones occurred prior to 1996. The CAO would go away, but the Sensitive Areas Ordinance (SAO) would remain. The SAO was among the strictest land use codes in the nation. “Pay or waive,” referring to the compensation clause of the initiative, is totally misrepresented. Landowners don’t want money, they want traditional land uses for which they have investment backed expectations. The compensation clause has to be there with teeth so government will deal in good faith.
The forces that brought this initiative to the ballot are made of frustration building for years from the overregulation of virtually everything connected with private real property. Anybody remember when the purpose of a building permit was to protect the unknowing owner from the unscrupulous contractor? Why do building permits for single family houses cost $25,000? Where is the value? Why does a one-acre building lot in east King County cost $350,000? Why do we have one house on 10-acre zoning in the Snoqualmie Valley? The owner was downzoned three times with no compensation. Why are there so many horror stories coming out of the King County permitting authority?
The biggest reason for the vigorous “No” campaign against 933 has more to do with bureaucrats and interest groups wanting to retain power than it has to do with nasty developers and threats to the environment. Over the last several decades, “the planners” have been busy defining land use policy. Local government, preservationists and academics have taken this far beyond common law protection of public health and safety. They now feel fully justified in defining most aspects of land use. What can you do on your own property without a permit? Does “owner” still have the same meaning?
It takes a variety of disciplines to become a landowner. Real planning, saving, time-consuming searches, years of making payments and taxes. Landowners are responsible. They contribute to healthy societies. I-933 restores a measure of balance in favor of the landowner. It takes from the bureacrats and planners and delivers to the people. If you are or want to be a landowner or you want your children to have a chance to own property in this state, vote “Yes” for fairness. Vote yes on I-933.
Alliance for Property Rights