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Know the West

Planning regulations bite a planning proponent


Note: in the print edition of this issue, this article appears as a sidebar to another news article, "Sagebrush rebels in the apple orchards."

Dan Evans has a problem: He wants to build a house on a five-acre, $127,250 parcel of land in western Washington's Jefferson County, but a county zoning ordinance says a new house needs 10 acres.

"I am a fourth-generation landowner in Jefferson County and find it sad that a stroke of the pen could prevent me from building a summer home for my children and grandchildren," Evans wrote to county commissioners.

Just another landowner griping about obnoxious regulations? Not quite. Evans is a former U.S. senator who also served as governor from 1983 to 1989; the zoning ordinance is a mandate of the 1990 Growth Management Act, a law Evans has long supported as a necessary tool to control growth. But Evans now wants the legislature to change the act "with a goal of predictability and certainty for those who seek to build new homes," reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The irony of Evans' situation is not lost on the Building Industry Association of Washington, which has long opposed Washington's tough law. "I don't think that he ever suffered the indignity of being on the receiving end of a regulation before," said executive director Tom McCabe. "Now that he has, he wants to change the regulations."

Supporters of the law say commissioners are partly to blame; they've resisted the act ever since it passed in 1990, and only imposed a temporary zoning ordinance after developers flooded the county with building permits to beat the state-imposed restrictions.

"We're two or three years behind schedule, so there is no clear coherent land-use policy in place," said Robert Greenway of the Jefferson County Planning Commission. "If we had a decent density policy in place, there could be all sorts of possibilities for exceptions."

Evans, who opposed a property-rights initiative defeated by voters in 1994, maintains there is no conflict between his political philosophy and his attitude toward the zoning regulations.