Correction: (Tuesday, October 24, 1995 B4) Sunday’s editorial criticizing Washington state Referendum 48 incorrectly described the question it poses to voters. In fact, this Nov. 7 ballot item will ask voters whether they wish to approve or reject a property rights law passed by the 1995 Legislature. The Spokesman-Review editorial board urges that people vote to reject the law.
What makes Washington such an attractive place to work, play, raise kids and grow old? As the speeding years carry us all toward the perspective only time can supply, simple things become more precious than the rat race for wealth. A walk through a quiet local park, covered with crackling golden leaves. A drive to Mount Rainier, the Palouse, the ocean. Quiet streets. Good fishing. A relatively safe neighborhood. Quality of life is what sets this state apart.
Washington’s quality of life stands in serious jeopardy right now, and the only hope is a proposition on the Nov. 7 ballot. Referendum 48 would repeal Initiative 164, which was written by development and logging interests in a paroxysm of reckless greed. The initiative was passed by a Legislature that ignored local government warnings about the staggering costs it will impose. Now, only the voters can prevent it from becoming law.
The initiative adds two sweeping, expensive requirements before government can regulate the use of land. First, government must produce a broad study of a regulation’s economic impact. Second, government must pay the property owner for value lost as a result of the regulation.
Stop and think. What are the reasons we ask our government to regulate land use? Planning and zoning designations protect everyone’s property values by separating commerce from residences. Logging rules keep mud out of fishing streams. In short, rules that limit property uses protect quality of life for us all.
Supporters claim the initiative won’t apply to zoning. Making that claim doesn’t make the claim true.
The University of Washington assigned some of the state’s most credible analysts - individuals with strong conservative and business credentials - to analyze the initiative’s impact. They found it applies squarely to zoning. They said the preparation of economic impact statements, as defined in the law, would paralyze permitting processes and cost Washington’s local governments $278 million to $899 million per year. They estimated local governments would have to pay landowners $3.8 billion to $11 billion for routine limits on land use.
As these impossible costs show, the initiative’s real purpose is to deter government from regulating land in any way, including the well-accepted ways that protect our neighborhoods and our state’s environment.
Yes, a few bad regulations, such as wetlands rules, have indeed violated property rights and were the provocation for the initiative. But the remedy should be to repeal the offending rules, not to make it unaffordable to continue the many other types of regulations that protect us all.
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