Monday, February 13, 2006

Another One Bites the Dust (Maybe)

"[We have] reasonable protections that make our neighborhoods better, our streets safer, ensure us good jobs, and generally contribute to our quality of life. Irresponsible developers and other special interests would like to see these protections removed to line their pockets, sacrificing the good of the many for the benefit of the few.

"And what if these protections were taken away? What if a huge mall were allowed to be built in your neighborhood and there wasn't anything you could do about it? What if a new law took away government's ability to protect you from flooding, landslides or from contaminated drinking water?"

Sounds like a reaction to the Utah legislature's infamous SB170, doesn't it? But no, this is part of the verbiage found on the website for the Community Protection Coalition. The Coalition is reacting to a proposed initiative in the State of Washington filed last week by the Washington Farm Bureau. The purpose of the initiative is to have voters adopt a measure in November that would be similar to Measure 37 in Oregon. The Washington Farm Bureau is primarily concerned about restrictions in Washington state law on farmlands and environmental protection, but the measure would blanket all property, urban or rural, and severly restrict what regulations could be adopted without providing compensation to owners.

The Washington Farm Bureau also has a website, called Property Fairness for Washington. A story in The Olympian (Olympia, Washington) is a good briefing on the issue.

So let's see, we have Measure 37 that passed in Oregon a little over a year ago (though it is currently on hold as appeals work their way through the Oregon courts), we have SB170 in Utah, and now this measure in Washington state. What's going on? Are development interests just getting overly aggresive lately, or is there a real backlash developing because of heavy-handed land use regulation? Richard Carson, former director of Portland Metro planning agency and current director of community development in Vancouver, Washington, thinks that may be the case.

Yes, we must oppose and decry such moves. But we must also look to ourselves and see what it is we need to be doing different and better to support the needs and desires of the community.

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