"Initiative Measure 933 concerns government regulation of private property. This measure would require compensation when government regulation damages the use or value of private property, would forbid regulations that prohibit existing legal uses of private property, and would provide exceptions or payments. Should this measure be enacted into law?"It looks like I-933, the "Property Fairness Initiative," will make it on the ballot this fall, guaranteeing hysterical TV ads and apocalyptic rhetoric from the leftist fringe in Washington.
As I have stated previously, there is much to like about I-933:
From yesterday's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Governments brace for potential fallout from I-933
A proposed initiative has local governments in Washington state quaking at the possibility that some land use laws may become obsolete.
Initiative 933, known as the Property Fairness Initiative by its proponents, has the potential to roll back land use restrictions passed since Jan. 1, 1996 and force government to justify any new ones.
It also would require governments to pay private property owners any time the use or value of their property is damaged by restrictive regulations.
“We want more thoughtful government,” said Dan Wood, director of government relations for the Washington Farm Bureau, the group that filed the initiative. “When thinking about a new regulation, we want them to think about why the regulation is needed.”
Critics of the initiative are worried it’s too open to interpretation and could end up invalidating a number of regulations citizens may want.
In Pullman, the city has been working on a nuisance housing ordinance designed, in part, to improve aesthetics in the city by prohibiting things like junk cars sitting in yards. City officials believe if the initiative is approved by voters it would invalidate such a nuisance ordinance, City Supervisor John Sherman said.
“There’s no question it does raise questions as to the authority of cities,” Sherman said.
Another example of the kind of regulation that would be problematic if the initiative passes is a proposal for a historic overlay zone on College Hill. A portion of College Hill was designated a historic district by the state June 16, and some residents would like to see the city adopt architectural and design standards to protect the neighborhood’s historic character.
Because that would limit what property owners could do with houses in the district, an argument could be made the city would have to compensate them for the loss in value.
The proposed law forces governments into a “pay or waive” position – if they can’t afford to pay for damage, they’ll have to stop enforcing regulations such as open space requirements, said Dave Williams, a municipal policy associate for the Association of Washington Cities.
The text of the initiative makes exceptions to its requirement for compensation when regulations are meant to protect public health and safety.
Wood said the initiative was designed to protect farmers from regulations that prevent them from putting their land to its full use. He particularly dislikes what he sees as excessive buffer requirements that are meant to protect wetlands and wildlife habitat but are costing farmers money in lost crops.
“A particular farm near me with a 200-foot buffer would lose 122 acres out of 900 acres,” Wood said. “That’s land they can’t grow corn on. It’s an impact to the community as well because they don’t have the economic activity.”
Wood said about 10 percent of all jobs in Washington state are in agriculture or food production.
Farmers aren’t the only property owners the initiative’s proponents are worried about. They also are concerned about private property owners living in towns and cities that have fallen victim to excessive zoning and land-use regulations.
Wood has a 75-foot redwood tree growing in his front yard about 20 feet from his house. He’d like to cut the tree down before it damages his home but can’t do it without permission from the local government. He doesn’t think he should need to get permission from the city to take action to protect his house.
“City folks are affected as much as rural folks are,” Wood said.