Northwest NEWS

August 20, 2001


Have advocates of sportsfields dropped a stitch?

I wonder whether those who advocate sportsfields on idle Sammamish Valley ag lands have dropped a stitch.
   In researching whether King County has set up conflicts between its existing ag/open space developments rights ordinance and documents involved with its new development-rights-transfer program, I came across some interesting wording in the existing ordinance adopted in 1979.
   That ordinance covered aquisition of land for open space as well as for agriculture with the county since 1979 treating the two categories as overlapping.
   The interesting ordinance wording says that "'Open Space Land' means 'Open Space Land' as now defined in RCW 84.34.020(1) and 'open space use' shall mean any of the uses provided by such definition."
   The RCW definition includes "(b) any land area, the preservation of which in its present use would . . . (v) enhance recreation opportunities." That was the definition in 1979 and it's the same now.
   Open, unused farmland would be a "present use (that would) enhance recreation opportunities" for hundreds if not thousands of our youth. So can it legitimately be argued that King County's absolute prohibition of athletic fields on ag/open space lands from which development rights have been purchased is in direct conflict with its own enabling ordinance?
   (Of course it can be argued that development rights were not purchased from the Kaplan et al Sammamish Valley ag-zoned lands under dispute.
   But laws that cover highly protected ag/open space-program lands should represent the maximum control, with non-program lands being subjected to lesser controls because they have never been paid for development rights.)
   Maxine Keesling, Woodinville