Opponents of Critical Areas Ordinance stage protest

February 26, 2005


SEATTLE - A weed-filled bouquet dropped at the front door of King County Executive Ron Sims is a not-so-friendly reminder of what some property owners say their own fields are now filled with.

"Ron wants 65 percent of our property. We think that Ron should share the pain, show solidarity by sacrificing just 50 percent of his property, and the bouquet contains the things we're expected to live with," said Chuck Pillon.

They feel that, thanks to government officials, too much nature now rules their privately-owned land. The controversial Critical Areas Ordinance states that owners of five or more acres must leave 50-65 percent of their land in a natural state. In addition, landowners must leave buffers of 75-225 feet from streams and wetlands.

Protesters left a bouquet of weeds on the doorstep of King County Executive Ron Sims.

The rule has swamped Marielos Bandelin's dreams.

"It's unreal. I don't believe this is happening to us. They're taking our land," said Bandelin.

May Creek area landowners say the new rules have turned their former pasturelands into designated wetland.

"Our vision was to plant blueberries so we could retire," said Bandelin.

Bandelin says after she and her husband sunk $50,000 into their dream, the county later imposed the strict new rules.

King County Executive Ron Sims was not home Saturday, but he recently told KING 5 News the rules seek to strike a legal balance to help maintain some of the county's rural character.

"If you want to pasture your property, we say great, we want that. If you want forest, that's great. We say, if you want to maintain your lands, you can," he said.

But Bandelin says in her case, the new rules prevent her from improving her property and now she has thousands of dying blueberry bushes and a big property tax bill to show for all of her hard work.

"Pay us. Buy us out so we can go someplace else. They say 'no, you're stuck,'" she said.

Other landowners did not participate in Saturday's protest because they endorse the rules and even say the rules do not go far enough to protect the environment.

A King County judge recently ruled that growth management regulations cannot be overturned by a public vote. It's now in the hands of the state supreme court.



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