Legislative Update

by Jack Hamilton

In the other Washington

In the coming months we will hear more and more about the hazards of CO2 emissions and the absolute need to implement “cap and trade” regulations to enable us (America) to reduce manmade harm to the environment.  However, we need look no further than the recent federal “CARS” (“Cash for Clunkers”) program to gain clear insight regarding the seriousness with which our government is approaching the subject.”

“CARS” was sold to the American taxpayer as a way to “stimulate the economy” and remove a significant number of emission producing vehicles from our roads.  The premise was that vehicles with mileage less than 20 mpg would be removed and be replaced by newer cleaner vehicles.  Since the President had declared that we would all be driving cars with efficiencies of not less than 30 MPG in a few years, it would be appropriate to consider that the “CARS” replacement vehicles would be or most certainly approach that efficiency level.  Too bad we have to deal with reality.  There are over 135 million cars on the road in America.  The “CARS” program resulted in a turnover of about ½ million or less than 0.4 percent of all vehicles. 

On average, 20 million cars are sold in the US each year so “CARS”, in two months accounted for less than 2.5 percent of annual sales, not even close to nominal sales figures for a two month period.  Further the “average” efficiency of all cars sold under “CARS” is 25 mpg well below the president’s dictate.  So although the “CARS” program empties car lots of inventories, artificially prolonged employment of car sales people, eliminated a large inventory of potential used cars for first time buyers, and redistributed 3 Billion dollars of our wealth, little real progress on either CO2 emission reductions or economic stimulus.  Now government is talking about a “stimulus” program to get you to buy a new refrigerator.  Where does it end?

At Home in Kitsap -– Commissioners and Rural Industrial development

Just when you though it was safe to breathe because surely the budget crunch would slow down the time and manpower available to come up with more near brainless ideas, the Commissioners are off and running again. (Read Bill Palmer’s article if you have not done so already.)

We are all aware that the concept of “Zoning” in Kitsap County passed from confusing to lunatic a long time ago.  There was some hope that the planners in DCD and their supervisors would have run out of new ways to frustrate development and drive property owners around the bend.

Have heart, utopian land use planning is alive and well in the Admin Building.  As a part of one of the earlier incarnations of the comprehensive plan, the planners created a zoning classification of “Rural Industrial”.  That classification was distinct from “Urban Industrial” and “Rural Commercial” supposedly to provide the ability to designate areas where certain “industrial” activities, suitable only to those areas, could be allowed.  It’s not that we needed as many zoning classification as we had but if that’s what it took to enable proper development of industrial activity in a rural area, so be it.  (Of course, the fact that the majority of current industrial activities originated in rural areas and than many remain in rural areas did not appear to fit in the planners reality check when the separate classification was deemed necessary).

Having settled on the classification and associated identified permissible uses for the classification, it would be appropriate that property owners and developers would soon turn their energies toward creating industries in the rural areas.  Well, that was the case but some just did not act fast enough.

When Puget Sound Regional Council revised the land use planning policies in Vision 2040, they implemented a set of policies that moved all industrial development (and essentially all economic development) to areas designated as “centers”. If you guessed that those “centers” were either in or adjacent to Urban Growth population centers so as to facilitate mass transit and eliminate those pesky private autos, you would go to the head of the class.

The move was so far under the radar screen of most that it was cast in stone before most even understood the potential result.  (Your faithful KAPO staff recognized what the “degreed professionals” on the planning staffs were trying to do and identified the threat in our review.)

With the adoption of the Vision 2040 policies, the end result was clear.  Rural areas were the “preserved playground” of the urbanites and no further degradation of the sacred rural areas would be allowed.

Not surprising, our local staff in DCD have introduced a revision to the Comprehensive Plan (for a document with a fixed review and revision process we seem to change it a lot) that does not eliminate Rural Industrial, but does eliminate virtually all allowed used in the classification.  Hard to complain that your property has been “rezoned” when it hasn’t.  Also hard to complain that there is no longer any viable commercial use to the property when one or two are still left.  Don’t you love those guys?

This ploy by the Commissioners and their staff supporters will have a major detrimental impact on the existing and future economic well being of the county.  Existing businesses located in Rural Industrial areas will be forced to close, if sold, will not be allowed to expand, and will feel continued pressure to relocate.  New businesses will not have choice of location but will be forced to locate in the new “centers” in or near Urban Growth Areas.

Since we have a reasonable historical record on the lack of success in that concept to date, it is unlikely that businesses will find Kitsap a pleasing fit.  Perhaps it is time to buy land in Idaho (or South Carolina, if you own Boeing stock).

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