10/10/2006: "Stop Stealing!"
I was not planning on writing a letter to support I-933, but someone is denying me my free speech by stealing "Vote Yes For I-933" signs from my property.
Those who know me know I support many environmental organizations and causes, financially and with sweat. Few can parallel my support for recycling: I started the ROAR program (Reach Out And Recycle) and Consignment Treasures building on Roche Harbor Road.
So, why am I supporting I-933? Because I-933 won't touch any law, zoning code or rule passed before Jan. 1, 1996, and by that time there were quite a few of them. Since that time many environmental laws have been passed that are over the top, out of control, and they have gone too far. That is why Oregon passed their own form of I-933, and why we should too. The best example I can give you is my brother Fred's situation.
Years ago Fred bought a small lot in a 40 year old subdivision that had 95% of the homes built. Six years ago Fred & Mervie went to build their retirement home and found out their lot was now considered a class 3 wetland.
Because of new laws, Fred & Mervie cannot plant the lawn, or build the house & garage they wanted. They were told the lot was not big enough. That's because the rules say they have to give up 83% control of their lot. He is allowed to use only 17% of his lot, unless he is willing to give King County money for environmental use elsewhere.
Before Fred & Mervie went to build, their lot was worth over $75,000. The King County Assessor has now revalued their property to $1,000. How would you like to have your retirement plans and home ruined, and lose a substantial portion of your retirement investment? In addition, Fred & Mervie's neighbors do not have to have the same regulations on their lots, simply because they built before the new laws were passed.
The harassment Fred & Mervie received was so expensive and threatening that they offered to give King County their property for free, if King County would just leave them alone. Fred & Mervie have now spent 6 years of harassment, as well as a small fortune in permit & legal costs, trying to settle the issues. This is only one example of overbearing and unfair changes in regulations. There are many more.
Politically I-933 is a property rights issue and a reaction to city people's choices to protect wildlife and natural beauty by making property owners pay for it. It has now gone beyond being strictly a rural issue, because my brother's property is hardly rural. It is a small building lot in a sub division. Simply put, this is stealing from some individuals for the benefit of others. Property that is taken by the government from people should be paid for by tax dollars, since it is explained as being a benefit for everyone.
Let's not be a party to theft from our neighbors. At some point, if you choose to be a property owner, it will affect you too. We, as well as the government, need to be respectful and fair to our neighbors. Let's choose actions like the Nisqually agreement. It is a superior alternative to top-down regulation. It is adaptive and flexible rather than bureaucratic, and it lends itself to win-win solutions instead of one group imposing its wishes on another.
Let's all pay for environmental choices with taxes, rather than steal from individuals for them. I-933 is only fair. Vote yes.
Frank M. Penwell
San Juan Island