The Edwards Agency

Opinion

Rural landowners paying for lost tax revenues

lost tax revenues King County is piling onto remaining rural landowners what the county is losing in taxes from parcels lost to annexation/incorporation.
   Despite intervening adoptions of the 1990 Sensitive Areas Ordinance, the 1993 Northshore Plan's downzoning from 1 home/acre to 1 home/2 1/2 acres and that Plan's Critical Drainage Area and Erosion Problem Area designations, and the 1994 Comprehensive Plan's interesting gimmick of limiting the 2 1/2-acre-zoned areas to 5-acre-minimum subdivisions, the County Assessor says our Hollywood Hill's 1997 land valuation has jumped 285% from its 1989 valuation. (It jumped 197% from the lowered December 1995 value determined by an appeal to the County Board of Equalization.)
   These valuation increases, and the resulting increases in taxes, are especially insulting since the 1994 Comp Plan also limits rural road taxes to paying for safety improvements only, while shifting the bulk of our annual road tax to road construction and widening in the urban areas. Worse, when we apply to build a house on our rural land, our road impact fees are much higher than in urban areas, many of which charge no road impact fees at all.
   The Public Benefit Rating System reduced-tax program (PBRS) becomes a cash cow for the government when an owner unexpectedly withdraws from the program. The county charges seven years' difference in back taxes, 12% interest on those taxes and a 20% penalty if the owner is unable to give two years' written notice of withdrawal. This is true even if the land has been in the program longer than 10 years, a point understood by few.

Maxine Keesling, Woodinville