Two local residents will debate the government regulation of private property tonight.
Pullman resident Tom Forbes and Palouse farmer Aaron Flansburg will debate Initiative 933 during a public forum at 7 p.m. tonight at Pullman City Hall.
The Washington Farm Bureau sponsored the initiative, which is endorsed by the state Republican Party. A variety of environmental groups oppose I-933, an effort endorsed by the state Democratic Party.
According to a WFB group called the Property Fairness Coalition, I-933 is designed to prevent government from “damaging the use or value” of private property.
Under Washington’s Growth Management Act, counties are required to identify and protect “critical areas,” including wetlands, conservation areas and flood zones. In some cases, the act has resulted in county ordinances that limit certain uses of private property. In King County, where regulation opponents lost a legal battle last year, an ordinance limits clearing on residential property – 50 percent must be left natural in some instances. [It's actually 65%]
Initiative 933 would require government agencies to consider and document nine factors before limiting the use of a property. If the agency decides to go ahead with the regulation, it would first have to pay the property owner for the decrease in property values, or issue a waiver. The government would also have to cover all costs and attorney’s fees when the property owner makes a claim for compensation.
Forbes said he is for the initiative because it is fair and would allow private-property owners to determine how their property is used. “Basically, Initiative 933 is based on a very familiar economic-environmental principal of, if in some way you affect other people, you have to pay for it,” Forbes said. “It’s basically the same concept applied to the government.” Opponents argue I-933 would cost taxpayers millions of dollars to administer, and would circumvent environmental laws. According to the “No on 933” campaign, the initiative forces taxpayers to either pay developers not to build on protected land, or waive the protection.
In Pullman, the issue has drawn the attention of two familiar groups. One of the debaters, Forbes, who is cofounder of Businesses and Residents for Economic Opportunity, supports I-933 [*Sigh*. I don't know why this is always mentioned. I specifically told the reporter that I was speaking as a private individual, not on behalf of BREO] The Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development, which is fighting a new Wal-Mart in Pullman, opposes the initiative. “The initiative is vague and poorly written,” PARD Media Coorinator Chris Lupke said. “It’s doubtful it would even stand the test of constitutionality in Washington state, but that is not a risk we should take.” Flansburg is against the initiative and said it is vaguely written with the possibility of legal debate. “Essentially what it would do would repeal any land-use laws passed within the past 10 years, but it has the potential to cover more laws,” Flansburg said. “It sets up what they call a ‘pay or waive’ system.” He said the initiative would force farmers to compete with developers for the same land, and because the government is strapped for money, it wouldn’t be able to pay. The Oregon Supreme Court recently upheld a similar initiative in that state. Oregon voters passed Measure 37 in 2004. A lower court ruled the measure unconstitutional a year ago. The Supreme Court overturned that ruling in February.
An initiative similar to I-933 was voted down by Washington voters in 1995. Initiative 164, which became Referendum 48, received 40-percent approval.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
"Palouse residents will debate on property rights tonight"
From today's Evergreen. Come watch me step in the lion's den tonight! Should be amusing.