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Committee recommends Open Space Preservation Amendment to full King County Council

Summary

Council to consider Charter amendment protecting rural acreage

Story

Working to protect King County’s open spaces, the King County Council’s Committee of the Whole today sent an ordinance to the full Council placing an amendment to the King County Charter on the November ballot. If adopted by the Council, and subsequently approved by the voters, the amendment would provide heightened protection for rural acreage either owned or held in a conservation easement by the county.

The Committee also sent a companion ordinance to the full Council listing the 95 properties that will receive protection if the proposed charter amendment is adopted and approved by the voters. The properties are deemed to have high conservation value and comprise nearly 150,000 acres of rural land, including the Upper Raging River Forest and Snoqualmie Forest. Before adoption of an ordinance providing for a property to be removed from this list or added to it, a public meeting must be held in the Council district in which property is located.

“Just as our national parks provide heightened protection for our country’s most treasured land, the Open Space Preservation Amendment protects King County’s most valued open spaces,” said Councilmember Bob Ferguson, co-sponsor of the proposed legislation and chair of the Committee of the Whole.

“This legislation preserves the integrity of the charter, while still providing additional protection to the open space we have worked so hard to acquire,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn. “It's one more tool in our arsenal for preventing sprawl and protecting the beautiful areas that we that make this region unique.”

The Council will decide whether to adopt legislation establishing an inventory of 95 properties in rural King County that would receive protection from development. The properties are deemed to have a “high conservation value” against sale, transfer, or change of use, with some limited exceptions. The properties comprise nearly 150,000 acres of rural land and include the Raging River Natural Area and Snoqualmie Forest.

The proposed charter amendment before the Council sets forth the process by which properties can be added to or removed from the list of 95 properties contained in the accompanying ordinance before the Council:

• The Council may, by a minimum of seven affirmative votes, adopt an ordinance establishing an inventory of high conservation value properties that are to be preserved. The inventory shall include only properties in which the county has a real property interest. An ordinance establishing an initial inventory of 95 properties was approved today by the Committee of the Whole.

• Property may not be added or removed from this inventory except by a Council ordinance adopted by a minimum of seven votes.

• At least 28 days after the introduction of a proposed ordinance modifying the inventory, the Council shall hold a public hearing to consider the proposed ordinance.

If the Council votes to place the proposed charter amendment on the ballot, King County voters will make the final decision by voting on the proposal in the November 2009 general election.

“The King County Council and voters have an opportunity to leave a legacy to future generations by approving the Open Space Preservation Amendment,” added Ferguson.

If the Council votes to place the proposed charter amendment on the ballot, King County voters will make the final decision by voting on the proposal in the November 2009 general election.

The two ordinances will be up for public comment and action at the Council’s Tuesday, July 7 meeting.

An Open Space Amendment was recommended to the Council last year by the King County Charter Review Commission, a group of King County citizens appointed to recommend changes to the King County Charter. The proposed amendment before the Council reflects the Commission’s recommendation, though the Raging River property has been added to the inventory of properties and the process by which properties can be added or removed from the list of protected open spaces was modified.

“These properties were chosen for their high value in safeguarding the county’s drinking water, habitat, recreation opportunities, and rural economy,” said Terry Lavender, a member of the Review Commission. “The ordinances before the Council reflect a significant effort to protect our region’s open spaces.”

The charter is the basic structural document of the King County government, similar to a constitution.




Open Space Amendment

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