January 4, 2010 in City

Bill targets zone change notifications

Lawmaker wants counties to mail notices to owners
Steve Gardner Kitsap (County) Sun
 

PORT ORCHARD, Wash. – State Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, is proposing a bill that would require cities and counties to notify property owners when their properties will be considered for rezoning.

“There needs to be some kind of initial notification, and then whether people want to get involved in the initial hearings or go to meetings, that’s up to them,” Angel said of the proposed legislation, House Bill 2408.

It’s an idea that isn’t meeting much initial resistance at the county administration building in Port Orchard.

Jeffrey Rowe-Hornbaker, deputy director of the county’s Department of Community Development, said rezoning proposals are planned so far ahead of time, it might be possible to mail the notices in the same envelopes with assessments or tax notices.

Rowe-Hornbaker said the county puts notices in newspapers and on the county’s Web site, but said he’d be open to another method “if it’s a means in which we can better inform our community.”

“Yesterday’s tool doesn’t necessarily fit today’s need,” Rowe-Hornbaker said. “The last thing we want to do is rely on what we did yesterday.”

Tim Matthes, president of the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners, said it’s an issue of fairness. If a property owner requests a rezone, the cost of mailing notices to neighbors is built into county development fees.

He has suggested that DCD should make the same kind of effort, he said, but been told it’s too expensive.

“It just purely makes good sense. Anybody that would have something possible to lose or possibly to gain should be notified,” Matthes said. “If it’s good enough for the goose it should be good enough for the gander.”

Kitsap County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido said she didn’t have any initial objections to the proposal, but would want to know more about what impact it would have on the county department, including the cost.

Angel, Garrido’s successor and predecessor as county commissioner, acknowledged her bill could qualify as an unfunded mandate.

“And that’s why I darned near didn’t do it,” Angel said. “But I do believe it is the responsibility of government if they’re going to change the property’s zoning they have to notify the property’s owner.”

The first-term legislator said city and county organizations have asked her whether the law would require local governments to notify property owners at every step of the process. Angel said she doesn’t want that. A simple postcard at the beginning would be fine for her.

That and other details are still to be spelled out in the bill. The bill’s first draft requires the notice to be sent to the last known owner using records from the assessor’s office, that the notice describe the action being considered, that times and dates of any action be provided and that contact information for questions be available.

Four other Republicans had signed on as co-sponsors as of Thursday. Angel said she will attempt to cross the aisle to get Democratic support as the session begins.

Angel said she has briefly discussed the bill with state Rep. Geoff Simpson, D-Covington, chairman of the House Local Government and Housing Committee. She said he expressed some concern over whether local governments could afford more costs being demanded on them.

“If they can’t afford to pay for notification on a property,” Angel said, “maybe they shouldn’t rezone it.”


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