October 19, 1998
We all benefit from urban fringe agriculture
A recent letter to the editor gives me the chance to fill in some blanks about land use in the Sammamish Valley. The Growth Management Hearings Board was created in 1990 by Washington's Growth Management Act. Its members are appointed by the governor. Their function is to settle conflicts arising out of the implementation of the GMA; the idea was to make it easier for citizens to have a voice in the process without having to go to court. The board's decision on the proposed land swap in Woodinville was the result of an appeal by just such citizens. Now with the county's appeal, the matter will be decided in the Superior Court.
The King County Agriculture Commission, being a county agency, is not related to the GMA. And in fact, there is an agricultural commission in Long Island, New York, very near to New York City. Agriculture happens everywhere, because people everywhere eat.
Yes, the farmland of Western Washington differs from that of the Midwest in that it does not spread out for miles and miles of prairie. Here good farmland is located in long, narrow river valleys, such as the Green River Valley to the south, the Skagit Valley in the north and the Sammamish Valley here.
The Sammamish Valley has been farmed as long as it has been settled with truck farms growing berries, vegetables, and flowers, and with nurseries, sod farms and dairies, many of which continue to flourish. It makes sense that such perishable products would be grown near urban centers and markets. This is not an aberration but a logical and historically a successful land use.
We all benefit from having local, urban fringe agriculture. Compare a box of locally grown strawberries with a box from Mexico. Which is likely to be better for your kids? It is false to suggest we have to make a choice between the welfare of kids and the preservation of farmland. They are linked. Urban fringe agriculture is part of a healthy, diverse, self-providing community. Healthy communities are good for kids.
By the way, the Laotion farmers mentioned in the letter are not threatened with displacement.
It turns out that farming is an allowable use of that land, contrary to the county's initial understanding. Of course, all the Valley farmers are threatened by those who do not understand the stake we all have in preserving farmland in one of the most fertile soil areas in the state.
Finally, the deed to the Muller Farm, which the soccer association bought, states that no sports fields shall be placed there. This is because the Mullers sold the development rights to the people of King County in 1986 for close to $850,000. It is hardly fair (much less legal) for the soccer association to now try to take that $850,000 for its own use. We taxpayers spent nearly a million dollars to attain a valuable goal that the soccer association now wishes to nullify at no cost to itself. This should not happen.
Paula W. Peaslee, Woodinville