An activist who earlier this year called for repealing the state’s Growth Management Act now is responsible for helping Spokane County comply with the law.
On the recommendation of Commissioner Phil Harris, an outspoken GMA critic, commissioners on Tuesday voted unanimously to appoint Curt Messex to the county planning commission.
The planning commission hears from people who want to subdivide their land or change a zoning designation for more, less or different types of development.
These days, the board spends most of its time writing a new “comprehensive plan” for development. That’s a requirement of the GMA, as are other chores the board faces during the next few years.
Messex wrote in a March 3 letter published in The Spokesman-Review that the GMA ought to be repealed because it infringes on private property rights.
The law, which strives to control urban sprawl, requires counties to protect some areas from urban development.
“A root cause of the Soviet Union’s collapse was government destruction of private property rights,” wrote Messex.
Regarding the regional hearings boards that settle disputes over the GMA, Messex wrote: “I find the idea terrifying that a board I can’t vote for has the kind of power over my property spelled out by the GMA.”
Like the three members of the Eastern Washington hearings board, the seven planning commission members are appointed.
Unlike the hearings board, the planning commission has little authority. Its decisions about individual pieces of property can be appealed to county commissioners. The board can only make recommendations about county policies, such as those relating to the GMA.
Messex, a Cheney resident and retired pilot, was out of town Wednesday and could not be reached for comment.
He came into prominence in the late 1980s when he fought construction of Spokane’s trash incinerator.
An independent candidate for county commissioner in 1990, he pulled out of the race just before the election, urging his supporters to vote for Republican Harris against incumbent Pat Mummey.
About 8,000 people voted for Messex anyway, splitting the anti-Mummey vote and - both Mummey and Harris believed - costing Harris the election.
Messex donated $45 to Harris’ victorious 1994 election, according to county records. That small contribution had nothing to do Messex’s appointment to the unpaid seat, said Harris.
“He supported me and so did something like 120,000 people who voted for me,” said Harris, himself a former planning commission member.
Harris said he hadn’t seen the letter to the editor and didn’t know Messex’s stand on the GMA.
“I probably could have guessed he’s a personal property rights advocate, as am I,” Harris said. “Knowing Curt, I really feel that he will go by the intent of GMA.”
Planning commission member Tom Hargreaves said he has no concerns about Messex joining the board.
“Frankly, I’m happy to see a diversity of opinion,” said Hargreaves, who supports the GMA. “It doesn’t serve the public well to have everyone in lock step.”
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