Will we be overrun with development? Not really
Bremerton, WA - On Nov. 18, 2003, The Sun ran a front page article
headlined "Massive land-use changes OK'd." The article went
on to say the county commissioners had approved the change and depicted
that change using the following language: "After implementing
ordinances are approved, up to four times as many homes can be built
on some 54,000 acres in rural Kitsap County -- nearly one-fourth of
the county's entire land mass."
However, earlier articles on the same topic, also headlined using the word "massive," explained the new ordinance would allow a land-owner to build not just one, but four houses on the owner's 20-acre parcel of land, formally described as interim rural forest. Many restrictions were placed on how and where those houses could be built. I don't know about you, but I certainly wouldn't have described going from one home to four on 20 acres as a "massive" change.
Language can be a powerful tool in creating graphic images. The way this story was reported prompted me to revisit the theory behind the Growth Management Act. What I found generated some questions.
On Nov. 6, 1990, Washington voters rejected Initiative 547 in a landslide. It would have mandated severe land-use restrictions in Washington. The following year, the Legislature passed the somewhat less stringent Growth Management Act. The passage of this act was based on the Legislature's perception that "uncoordinated and unplanned growth, together with a lack of common goals ... pose a threat to the environment, sustainable economic development, and the health, safety, and high quality of life enjoyed by residents of this state."
The act required extensive land use planning which eventually led to Kitsap's Comprehensive Plan. That plan is reviewed periodically, which brought about the "massive quadrupling" change approved late last year.
The GMA was based on a number of goals which communities were to follow in developing their comprehensive plans. Some of the goals were: to increase growth in urban areas; increase multi-modal transportation systems; reduce sprawl; encourage economic development; retain open space; encourage availability of affordable housing; protect the environment; and protect private property rights. That last goal I found most interesting.
Prior to passage of the GMA and development of Kitsap's Comprehensive Plan, individual property owners had much more flexibility and freedom to develop or not develop their property as they saw fit.
The majority of people I know who own sizable pieces of property in Kitsap have owned that property for years -- well before the Go-Go years of the 1980s and 1990s.
It was an investment they made for their future, and that of their family, with all attendant expectations that an investment would bring. Since property is a finite commodity, it's not surprising one would hope to profit from selling or developing it.
So, if one goal of the GMA was to protect private property rights, what kind of monetary compensation was given to property owners when the ability to develop their land was curtailed or eliminated altogether? What kind of cost/benefit analysis was done when the goals of GMA were developed? How do you create more "affordable housing" with the depletion of buildable land?
If the goals are important and worth something, why are they expected to "cost" nothing? If the goals are for everyone's "good," why isn't everyone "paying" for them? I guess the old adage "There is no free lunch" applies only if you're not a government entity with the power to take others' property through land use ordinances and zoning laws.
I'm not against sensibly controlling growth. I am, however, opposed to an elitist approach to growth management that restricts the common sense choices we should have.
This country was founded on the right to own property. Ownership should include the free exercise of options in dealing with that property, as long as it's reasonable and responsible. And, we don't need lawyers to define those descriptive words.
Property rights are critical to a free society. Those whose property is essentially confiscated for the supposed "greater good" of society should receive just compensation. As "progressives" are wont to say, "It's only fair."
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