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In November 2009, King County voters adopted an amendment to the King County Charter (the County’s “Constitution”) that enhanced protection for rural acreage either owned or held in a conservation easement by King County.

The Open Space Protection Amendment added a new section to the charter giving enhanced protection against sale, transfer, or change of use to properties deemed to have a “high conservation value.” The County Council adopted a companion ordinance listing an initial 95 properties to be protected by the new charter provision. The properties comprise nearly 150,000 acres of rural land, including the Upper Raging River Forest and Snoqualmie Forest.

Removing a property from the protected list requires adoption of an ordinance by a supermajority of at least seven Councilmembers and must include findings of fact that justify removal of the property from the list. A similar requirement applies to adding properties to the list.

County voters made three other changes to the charter in 2009:

Removing “budget allotments” language: The adopted amendment deleted Charter Section 475, which mandated that the County Executive provide estimates, or “allotments,” of what each county agency would be spending each quarter. This process was used in the past when budgeting and accounting were done primarily on paper without the use of automated systems. The County’s extensive use of computers in budgeting and accounting had made Section 475 obsolete and unnecessary.

Charter Review Commission procedures: This amendment made clear that the Executive’s appointment of the members of the Charter Review Commission is subject to Council confirmation. In addition, the amendment requires the Council to decide, at an open public meeting, what action to take on each recommendation made by the Charter Review Commission.

Removing transitional language: This amendment deleted charter provisions related to either the Metro merger in 1992 or the transition of King County to a charter form of government in 1969. Since those transitions were completed long ago, the related charter provisions were obsolete and unnecessary.

The adopted amendments were recommended by the King County Charter Review Commission in 2008. These recommendations were published in the Commission’s final report.

Amendments placed on the 2008 ballot can be found here.
Voters in 1968 first adopted the King County Charter, the foundation for county government that serves the same role that the U.S. Constitution does for the federal government. The Charter calls for a citizen commission to be assembled once every ten years to review the Charter and recommend proposed amendments to the County Council, which then decides whether to place them before the voters on the general election ballot. 

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