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Thoughts from a Yellow Dog Democrat living in Olympia, in the great BLUE state of Washington

I am a liberal because it is the political philosophy of freedom and equality. And I am a progressive because it is the political path to a better future. And I am a Democrat because it is the political party that believes in freedom, equality and progress. -- Digby

Friday, July 14, 2006

I-933

The Seattle Times has a good opinion piece on the impacts of I-933 should it pass:

The anti-neighborhood initiative

By Julie Meghji, Barbara Tupper, Karen Lowe, Laura Hartman and Debby Nicely
Special to The Times

WE choose where we live for many reasons: great schools, a safe place to raise a family, a quiet place to call home. Initiative 933 places all of those things in jeopardy.

I-933 will strip away the rights of neighborhoods and begs too many questions that it can't answer. I-933 says that whenever the state or local communities limit the use of a property — for example, when a developer wants to put an 80-home subdivision in your backyard instead of abiding by current zoning density — the taxpayers are left with two bad choices: either pay the property owner whatever the property could be worth; or, give the developer his own loophole from the laws the rest of us rely on to maintain property values and protect our quality of life, and let them cram in as many houses as they can.

Backers have left many questions unanswered. How much will this cost and where does the money come from? Who pays special interests to follow the law? Who makes the decision to waive the law, and for whom? Why does I-933 force taxpayers to pay for attorneys' fees?

There are so many questions surrounding I-933, but there are some things we know for sure. Below are issues here in Snohomish County that would each leave the local community out of the conversation, waiving laws for people without even notifying their neighbors.

Horseman's Trail is a proposed 116-unit subdivision that would be located on 23 acres of steep, environmentally sensitive property in the Picnic Point area between Mukilteo and Edmonds. Many local residents are asking Snohomish County not to approve the subdivision. Under I-933, the county would have only two choices: allow the development, or pay the developer what the subdivision would be worth — potentially millions of dollars.

In Mill Creek, many residents are concerned that a proposed 24/7 Wal-Mart store will have significant adverse impacts on traffic, public safety and the environment. I-933 would leave the community no choice but to approve the development, because the cost of paying the value of a huge Wal-Mart store would simply be too high for local taxpayers.

Little Bear Creek, and the rural land around it that protects the sensitive chinook habitat and headwaters to Lake Sammamish, is under heavy pressure for urban development from some of the largest developers in the area. The county is hoping to adopt and implement a low-impact-development ordinance in an attempt to protect Little Bear Creek when urban development is allowed in the future. It will do little good if I-933 passes.

In the Maltby-Clearview area, motocross tracks in the old Rinker gravel pit and rural cluster subdivisions south of Highway 522 in Echo/Paradise Lakes' aquifer recharge areas will continue to jeopardize the drinking water of existing homeowners if I-933 passes. No one will be able to stop the rural area turning into a myriad of mega-home septics and noisy racetracks, which will not only disrupt peace and quiet with more cars on the winding rural roads, but will potentially destroy the water quality and character of these rural neighborhoods.

Those are current examples. Voters should reject I-933 in November or the number of similar cases will increase exponentially. In fact, I-933 would allow irresponsible development to occur almost anywhere, regardless of neighborhood standards. The result will be "open season" on neighborhoods across the state. Farmland would be up for grabs, too, as poorly planned growth leapfrogs into rural areas, creating more traffic.

I-933 is a bad idea for Washington. It takes local communities out of the discussion and takes away a neighborhood's right to decide how it will look in the future.

That is why both urban and rural residents should take pause, look past I-933's ballot title and ask the simplest of questions. Who pays? How much? Who decides which laws will be waived? When you don't find any answers, you'll oppose I-933 as well.

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