Opinion

Bidding up price of seclusion from the masses

property taxes Having heard once too often that King County's rural-area landowners are compensated for their massive downzoning and so-called sensitive-areas lockups by significantly reduced real estate taxes, I explored the Assessor's records for facts.
   Bearing in mind that rural landowners have been downzoned so most can no longer sell unneeded land--most can't cut a tree without a $367.50 permit application fee plus $95/hour inspection fees (and the permit may be denied), and applying for a building permit can trigger 65% land lockup where even a horse can't graze--one would conclude that rural taxes would have diminished to practically nothing.
   Hollywood Hill south of Woodinville is an upscale rural neighborhood comparable to Seattle/Laurelhurst. The 1995 land value of a lot with a $172,000 Laurelhurst house is $143,000, while the land value of a now-undividible five acres with a $171,500 Hollywood Hill house is $368,000. (These land values are risen from 1982 valuations of $50,400 and $57,500, respectively.)
   The 1995 difference in taxes for land and houses is staggering, reflecting levy rate differences as well as land values: Laurelhurst, $3,574.84 and Hollywood Hill, $8,852.34.
   As Councilwoman Cynthia Sullivan once responded to a complaint that regulations were destroying values and making it difficult to sell: "There will always be those willing to pay for treed privacy."
   In other words, land values and taxes will keep rising because Microsoft-types will continue to bid up the price of seclusion from the masses.
   King County will lose its cash cow when Cedar County secedes.

Maxine Keesling, Woodinville