King County is the primary local government for more than 137,000 rural, unincorporated area residents. The Council is working to ensure King County fulfills its special responsibility to serve the rural areas. The Council has recently adopted a variety of policies aimed at improving public safety, land use procedures, and economic viability for rural residents:
Improving public safety
• Creating a countywide Flood Control Zone District to address flooding-related problems along the Cedar and Upper Green Rivers and their major tributaries.
• Replacing the narrow and seismically substandard Bandaret Bridge, which crosses upper Issaquah Creek where it intersects with Southeast May Valley Road near 230th Avenue Southeast.
Improving land use procedures
• Creating and funding an independent, senior-level Rural Ombudsman who is specifically responsive to rural residents and issues.
• Funding a "Rural Permit Coordinator" within the Department of Development and Environmental Services (DDES) to specifically address the permit needs and issues of rural residents.
• Funding for the review and development of free rural stewardship plans by Department of Natural Resources and Parks staff.
• Funding for the review and development of free farm management plans by King Conservation District staff.
• Supporting agricultural programs, such as the Farmland Preservation, Farm Fresh, FarmLink and the Agriculture Commission, and forestry programs, such as the Forest Management Plan, Forest Landowner Assistance, Timber Sale Management and Wildfire Risk Reduction Assistance, all within the Department of Natural Resources and Parks.
• Funding the "Barn Again" Initiative to preserve and restore historic barns in rural King County.
• Expanding the provisions of the Public Benefit Rating System to allow tax reductions for owners of parcels with approved rural stewardship plans.
Improving economic viability
• Providing greater regulatory flexibility for conducting home-based businesses by allowing on-site sales, additional floor and lot area for business activity, a higher number of on-site employees, and additional equipment use and storage.
• Allowing Snoqualmie Valley farmers to raise older "critter pads" above the higher flood levels of recent years, and store farm equipment and feed on the flood sanctuaries along with livestock.
• Creating a one-year window for establishment of businesses offering specialty services to animals without a conditional use permit.
• Working to develop one or more agricultural kitchens around the county to create such value-added products as jams and sauces.
Currently proposed legislation
• Establish a task force to reduce DDES permit fees, increase transparency and accountability of permitting operations, and provide property owners with tools to resolve code enforcement disputes.
• Expand space for farmers to conduct on-site processing and sales of their products.