Emboldened by a recently passed ballot initiative requiring Oregon’s state and local governments to pay for land-use regulations, residents in Seattle’s King County are whipping up a property-rights revolt of their own (HCN, 11/22/04: Election Day Surprises in the Schizophrenic West).
October, the Democrat-led county council adopted new land-use
ordinances meant to protect "critical areas," such as wetlands and
wildlife habitat. The regulations require rural property owners to
leave streamside buffers, and 50 to 65 percent of their land,
undeveloped. Existing agricultural land is exempt, as is commercial
In response, the Citizens’ Alliance for
Property Rights, a landowners’ group, collected about 51,000
signatures for three ballot initiatives that would repeal the
ordinances. King County and environmental groups took the
initiatives to court, where a county judge ruled that state law
prevents citizens from using referendums to overturn local land-use
rules written to comply with the state’s Growth Management
The Citizens’ Alliance has vowed to appeal the
decision to the state Supreme Court, but Tim Trohimovich, planning
director for the environmental group 1,000 Friends of Washington,
points out that the Supreme Court has already ruled on the issue
— in favor of land-use rules.
Pacific Legal Foundation, a property-rights group, is preparing a
lawsuit against the county. And county council member Kathy
Lambert, R, who, along with the council’s other Republican
members, voted against the ordinances, says the fight is far from
over: "They may have woken up a sleeping giant."