Critical Areas Ordinance is not needed and based on bad
by Rodney McFarland
Dec. 9, 2004
King County, WA - In the wee hours of the morning on Oct. 26, the
urban representatives to the King County Council, ignoring the objections
of the representatives of the areas actually affected, voted to prevent
many rural property owners from using 50 percent to 65 percent of
their property. They also imposed increased buffers and hundreds of
pages of new regulations on unincorporated King County residents when
they passed three new ordinances, commonly referred to as the Critical
Areas Ordinance (CAO). Because most of their constituents do not have
to live with the new restrictions, they were able to enact their "solution"
to a "problem" they have never been able to identify.
Listed below are some of the restrictions that will go into effect
if the ordinances become law:
* Owners of previously undeveloped properties lose forever the use
of 50 percent to 65 percent (depending on size) of their property.
* The largest stream buffers increase to 165 feet on each side. Wetland
buffers can be as large as 300 feet.
* Each red-tailed hawk nest will consume 4.6 acres while a spotted
owl nest will eliminate all use of over 980 acres.
* Wildlife corridors will connect other wildlife buffer areas. You
may lose use of your property even if you have no actual "critical
areas" on it.
* Unelected bureaucrats will decide many of the specific rules you
will have to abide by via the "public rule" process, and
those same bureaucrats will determine which consultants you can turn
to for help.
The state Growth Management Act (GMA) requires that cities and counties
periodically review the policies and ordinances that they have enacted
to meet the requirements of that act. "RCW 36.70A.130 Comprehensive
plans -- Review -- Amendments. (1)(a) Each comprehensive land use
plan and development regulations shall be subject to continuing review
and evaluation by the county or city that adopted them. A county or
city shall take legislative action to review and, if needed, revise
its comprehensive land use plan and development regulations to ensure
the plan and regulations comply with the requirements of this chapter...."
King County ostensibly has a deadline of Dec. 1, although there were
reviews and changes in the last couple of years that probably already
met the requirement. While reviewing the applicable policies and ordinances,
the county has a requirement to include best available science. "RCW
36.70A.172 Critical areas -- Designation and protection -- Best available
science to be used. (1) In designating and protecting critical areas
under this chapter, counties and cities shall include the best available
science in developing policies and development regulations to protect
the functions and values of critical areas."
The powers that be in King County seized upon those few words in a
major state law to put through the second most draconian set of regulations
in the United States. Pierce County's new rules qualify as the most
draconian since they used what King County had originally proposed
without the amendments that occurred in King County. The primary author
of the CAO freely admits that King County is not out of compliance
with the GMA. An independent review of the science (available at www.proprights.org)
found that much of the science that is the basis for the new regulations
is not reviewable, not applicable or not real science. Of the thousands
of buffer studies done worldwide, the ones most applicable make an
argument for very small or no buffers. When Skagit County reviewed
the science they ended up with no buffers in the rural agricultural
areas. The primary study upon which the 65% native vegetation cover
is based relied upon data from before any of the current regulations
were in place. The very restrictive regulations that we currently
endure have simply been ignored as though they have had no effect.
Politics is the art of creating a real or imagined crisis and then
pretending to solve that crisis by doing whatever you could never
win approval to do through regular channels. The bureaucracy of King
County in collusion with the more extreme environmentalists have certainly
mastered the art form. The CAO will do nothing measurable to improve
the environment of King County but will have immense impacts upon
the small group of rural property owners most affected. Meanwhile
housing costs will continue ever upward forcing our kids and grandkids
to abandon the area to those trust-fund kids who can afford to live
As President of Citizens' Alliance for Property Rights, I have filed
three referenda that will put the ordinances to a vote of the people
affected. The King County Charter makes provision for unincorporated
area referendum of ordinances that only apply to the unincorporated
areas of King County. We have until Dec. 30, to gather signatures
equal in number to eight percent of the votes cast for King County
Executive in 2001. The vote will take place at the March 2005 election.
Only registered voters who reside in unincorporated King County can
sign the petitions and vote.
The Washington State Constitution is very clear that the right of
initiative and referendum are reserved to the people and supercede
the authority of the legislature. The King County Charter is very
clear about the citizens' rights of referendum. That hasn't stopped
King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng, at the behest of 1000 Friends
of Washington and the Center for Environmental Law and Policy, from
using your tax money to sue me in an attempt to squash the referenda.
They obviously realize they won't win the vote if we get the referenda
on the ballot so will use the legal system to attempt to batter us
into submission. That isn't going to happen. The residents of rural
King County are no longer going to stand by while the urban elite
dictate how we live our lives. If they really knew how to save the
environment, the basin condition map that is part of the new ordinance
would show their part of the county to be in as good shape as rural
King County. That map shows the real problems are in the city.
Rodney McFarland is president of the Citizens Alliance For Property
©Snoqualmie Valley Record 2004