Activist promotes protest to overturn rural land rules


by Dean A. Radford
King County Journal Reporter

ENUMCLAW -- The next tactic in the battle to overturn the county's controversial critical areas regulations may be a bit of civil disobedience.

Citizen activist Chris Clifford Tuesday night promoted the idea of a ``tent camp,'' modeled after the tent cities for the homeless on the Eastside, to draw attention to state legislation sponsored by state Rep. Dan Roach of Bonney Lake.

``If they won't listen to us, at least they'll have to look at us,'' said Clifford of Renton. He would like to stage his event in March.

The goal is to force a public hearing on the legislation.

Roach, a Republican, attended a town hall-style meeting in Enumclaw on Tuesday night to explain his legislation.

Roach's legislation would give rural residents a chance to vote on critical areas ordinances and reimburse them if their land lost value because of the rules.

But, they're already too late.

``Dan Roach's bills are dead,'' state Rep. Geoff Simpson, who chairs the House Local Government Committee, said Tuesday night in an interview. He won't hold any hearings on the package.

Roach was aware of Simpson's decision, which he called a ``knee-jerk reaction.'' He wants to keep the pressure on Simpson, which eventually could spill over into Simpson's next election.

``You (Simpson) are asking to have a revolt on your hands,'' Roach said.

Simpson said he's been in political fights before. ``I am still here,'' he said.

Simpson, a Democrat, will hold a public hearing on legislation proposed by Eastside Republican Toby Nixon that would spell out a process for forming a new county, another hot-button issue in rural areas. He hasn't set a date.

Simpson, who represents the 47th District, which includes rural areas in southeast King County, said Roach's bills have ``several problems.'' A citizens referendum can't be used to overturn a state law -- in this case a critical areas ordinance mandated by the state Growth Management Act, he said.

``I am not going to waste the committee's time on them,'' Simpson said. ``They don't solve any problems.''

And, he said, reasonable protections are needed to protect the environment and it's not reasonable to pay property owners ``to entice'' them to protect that the environment.

Simpson has his own ideas. He wants to better define the meaning of best available science, which is used to support the land-use ordinances. He wants to look at the frequency the critical areas ordinances are updated and he wants the public involved much earlier in the process to rewrite such legislation.

Dean Radford covers King County. He can be reached at dean.radford@kingcountyjournal. com or 253-872-6719.



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