March 27, 2000
While developers are building, seemingly nonstop, in places such as Duvall and Novelty Hill, King County government is continuing to try to restrict property rights in rural areas, say some East King County landowners. Many of those residents, alarmed at what they perceive to be the loss of their basic rights, are hoping to find strength in numbers.
Carnation resident Sara Broadhurst, chairperson of the newly-formed King County Citizens for Property Rights, said last week that the organization is growing quickly in the wake of recent county Comp Plan meetings, during which the King County Executive's office unveiled plans to downzone a large part of the unincorporated area of East King County.
"It was during the 2000 Comp Plan amendment meeting in Carnation in January that people began to realize their property rights were getting stepped on," said Broadhurst. "We asked people if they wanted to be part of a group to fight these regulations and 30 people signed up. We have 150 members now and adding more almost daily."
Broadhurst, who lives on 20 acres near Lake Joy, said that what King County is proposing is "definitely against property rights. Once again, we are asked to take the brunt of planning. This is not an issue of growth management."
A mass mailing from the group warned East King County residents that "the King County Comprehensive Plan 2000 would deny property owners in the forest production district the right to live on their land and manage their trees. In addition, property owners in the rural areas are targeted for yet another round of downzones to one home per 20 acres."
The letter said that the Comp Plan update states that individual residences would be prohibited on lots larger than 10 acres. "Thus, King County is proposing to take away your fundamental right to build a home on your property ... The proposal to downzone selected rural lands to one home/10 acres and one home/20 acres is the third or fourth downzone visited upon the rural areas in the past 20 years."
The group says that rural growth has been steady over the past eight years, averaging 860 homes per year. "In contrast," the letter said, "the fastest-growing part of King County is the urban portion of the unincorporated areas. That is why we have seen so many recent annexations and incorporations by suburban cities as they attempt to control growth on adjacent urban lands. It is a sad fact, but the rural and resource areas are being used as a scapegoat so urban politicians can deflect criticism from their short-sighted planning policies. And to make up for all the impervious surface created by county-promoted urban development in the rural area, D.D.E.S. has recently proposed a severe disciplining of rural property owners with a new Site Alteration Code."
The group says that the difference between the current rules and the Executive's plan is about 3,000 new homes. "That is small compared to other areas," said Broadhurst. "And not everyone will short-plat their property."
She said, though, the proposed rules are not yet a done deal. "The amendments have been presented to the County Council, but are in the Growth Management Committee for further recommendations," she said. "The amendments must be completed by the end of the year. I understand the council may be voting on them in the fall."
County Executive spokesperson Elaine Kraft said a revised Comp Plan proposal was sent to the County Council. "We took most of the input from the public meetings and looked at it on a case-by-case basis," she said. "Some additional changes were made in specific areas."
She said that in the 2000 Comp Plan, new residences are restricted in the forest production district to only those lots created on or before January 2000. "It will be one house per 20 acres," she said. "There will be a forest management plan for new development."
But Broadhurst said that a lot of people in those areas would like to divide their property to leave it to their children. "This is totally unfair to the small property owner," she said. "People need to write letters to the county telling them it is wrong to do this."
The group is actively seeking new members and contributions to its cause. A website has been created at www.kccpr.org. Contributions can be sent to the King County Citizens for Property Rights; P.O. Box 831; Carnation, WA 98014; or by calling Sara Broadhurst at 425-333-5304.