November 24, 2004

Rural v/s Urban

Original post date was 11-17-04 - Updated material at end: David Sucher at City Comforts writes about a land-use battle and political urban versus rural conflict that is happening just two counties south of us. bq. The Democratic Party ought to be listening Democratic policy wonks who are serious about regaining a decision-making role at the local & national level ought to be paying attention to stories like this one: 'Critical areas ordinance' provokes bitter 'rural vs. urban' dispute. bq. The story itself ignores the substance of the ordinance and focusses on the politics; so unless you have been following the issue, you have no idea what the 'Critical areas ordinance' specifically does. And I have to confess that even though I am fairly knowledgeable about these issues -- I served on the very first "environmentally-sensitive areas" advisory committee in the City of Seattle -- I don't know about this specific ordinance. (The P-I brushes readers off to King County's site.) While I am skeptical of property owners who claim wipe-out, I am also skeptical of environmentalists who claim end-of-the-world. Here is the home page for the Critical Areas Package Basically, if you buy a five-acre lot, you cannot touch 50% of it. Cannot clear it, cannot build on it, cannot use it for pasture. Lots larger than five acres must leave 35% untouched -- again, no clearing, pasture or building. It goes from bad to worse if you happen to buy property near a "sensitive area" or watershed. The website has links to PDFs of the various rules and regulations and these were very much not written by anyone who lived in the country... Micromanagement at its worst... I'm glad we settled in Whatcom county and not King. UPDATE: Armen Yousoufian wrote in with this correction and the situation is actually worse than I made it out to be. Here is part of his comment, check out the comments section for some of the backstory and what he is doing now. bq. Good article, but one correction/reversal to your clearing limit vs. untouched requirement for lots above 5 acres. In your 3rd to last paragraph you say: "Lots larger than five acres must leave 35% untouched again, no clearing, pasture or building." It's just the reverse: the 35% limit is what you can clear for lots over 7.5 acres - you must leave 65% largely untouched, just as you mentioned 50% must be left untouched for lots under 5 acres. Between 5 and 7.5 acres the untouched area is the greater of 2.5 acres or 65%. Any way you look at it, it's an extreme and uncompensated measure, and I thank you for getting that point across in your piece. Again, very happy to be a resident of Whatcom County - we have been going through the permitting process for our business (Commercial Hard Cider) and have found the County people to be very easy to deal with. You get that amazing feeling that you are talking to a real person -- someone you would like to have a beer with after work, instead of some numb bureaucrats. Jen and I both (before we met) had businesses in Seattle and the crap you have to go through there is sad -- they could make the area a lot more conducive to small business... Posted by DaveH at November 24, 2004 10:03 PM