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Home Latest News Editorials & Articles Life, liberty and property

Life, liberty and property

john_koster_bwWednesday, July 20, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

Snohomish County opinion

"Life, liberty and property"

Special to The Times

THE state Growth Management Act (GMA) mandates that cities and counties protect the "functions and values" of their critical areas, defined by the GMA as wetlands, critical aquifer recharge areas, fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas, frequently flooded areas and geologically hazardous areas.

Snohomish County protects these critical areas in Chapter 30.62 of the Snohomish County Code.

The GMA also requires that cities and counties review their critical-areas codes according to the best available science and make such adjustments as are found to be both necessary and effective. We are now engaged in that process.

Our duty of stewardship over our natural resources calls for us to exercise due regard for the use of the land by future generations. We of the present generation should preserve the utility, beauty, and value of the land for the use of future generations.

However, there is a problem. This mandated critical-areas review creates an opportunity for overreaching by those who would use the critical-areas review as a pretext for extinguishing property rights. This recently happened in King County, where adoption of that county's infamous "65/10" ordinance requires landowners to set aside 65 percent of their land from development and limit impervious surface to 10 percent of their parcel.

Snohomish County is not going there.

Of the many points of conflict over critical areas, the principal one is buffers. State agencies and extreme environmentalists have teamed up to coerce Snohomish County to unnecessarily increase buffers. If they succeed, they will, in effect, achieve a taking of still more farmland and rural residential land. Does the best available science demand a buffer increase? I seriously doubt it. But we will consult the science and make a decision based on fact and law.

Increasing buffers will further devastate our farmers. I am often amused at the environmentalist pretense of concern for farmland while advancing policies that destroy farming. How can this be? It is because the environmentalist has a wholly different mental image of farmland than does the farmer. To the farmer, farmland means livestock and crops. To the environmentalist, it means open space.

It is ludicrous to imagine that some Seattle activist is more concerned about Snohomish County farmland than Snohomish County farmers are. Legitimate environmental stewardship is already built into the farm plans and best management practices, which every farmer today employs, and which are monitored by county, state and federal governments.

In response to King County's outrageous critical-areas ordinance, the citizens of King County have reached for the most effective arrow in their quiver: their constitutional right to the initiative. I am informed the Washington Farm Bureau is preparing an initiative for the summer of 2006 that would require state and local governments to pay for whatever injury their laws cause to property values.

Such an initiative could be the undoing of the GMA. I support land-use planning and management of growth, but I firmly believe that growth should be managed both locally and constitutionally.

We must never lose our grasp of the connection between property and liberty. It is no coincidence that they are linked in the formula "life, liberty and property."

The American Colonists faced the world's greatest military power to preserve the law that taxation requires consent, and property can never be confiscated. The centerpiece of the American Dream is home and property ownership.

Our second president, John Adams, stated, "The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence." A society of home and property owners is a free society.

It is my conviction that we can have both reasonable environmental protection and property rights. They need not be in conflict. But I suspect that the masterminds behind the King County critical-areas debacle intend to bring their property-confiscation circus to Snohomish County.

A determined and resolute County Council, buttressed by our enormously competent prosecutor's office, has these past four years stood astride the extreme environmentalist invasion route. With the continued support and fervent effective prayers of the good citizens of Snohomish County, we will continue to stand in the gap.

John Koster, a Republican representing District 1, is vice chairman of the Snohomish County Council and chairman of the council's Planning and Community Development Committee.

"You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it."

--Adrian Rogers: See it @ Google Books: Ten Secrets for a Successful Family, p. 138.