County councilors need to thoroughly understand all consequences to their constituents

My friends and neighbors began to realize their dreams of living rural lifestyles and money was spent turning dreams into reality.

Susan Rasmussen
Susan Rasmussen

Hopes were dashed the morning of April 24. What little development rights rural landowners gained after more than 23 years, disappeared.  In the weekly Clark County Council hearing, four Councilors approved an “emergency moratorium that stops all rural and resource land divisions.  This was not noticed to citizens, and approved without any public input and little deliberation. This was an intentional maneuver that leaves instability for landowners and breeds mistrust with the Board of County Councilors. Four Councilors used the Hearings Board as an opportunity to maintain the ill-contrived rural and resource zoning that stops rural growth. Councilor Eileen Quiring was the only one who stood with her constituents.

The Growth Management Hearings Board does not represent the citizens of Clark County and fails to rely on the experience of local residents and councilors to craft workable measures for the local growth plan.  Councilors should not treat the policies of the Hearings Board as binding standards and raise those standards above the concerns of their constituents.  This policy fails to grant local deference that translates to failing to account for local circumstances.

The county is appealing elements of the Hearings Board rulings.  If the county is intently pursuing a real appeal, the county should be arguing that the Hearings Board’s opinion of local circumstances is a faulty interpretation.  Deference should be given to the opinions of the tax-paying citizens that live and work here.  The councilor’s April 24 adoption of the emergency moratorium placates the Hearings Board and undercuts the county’s appeal.  Is the moratorium really a county admission that their previous decisions were incorrect?  Did they intend to return to 23 years of status quo for rural constituents all along?

If the emergency moratorium of rural land divisions is so important as to be labeled an emergency,” why weren’t any considerations recognized for the families that will suffer from the various impacts?   What about their dreams and livelihoods that have been left hanging? It was no accident the staff made no effort to report on the human consequences.  The staff continually reduces rural properties to facts and numbers.  There is no excuse for the inaction of staff on providing the councilors the pros and cons of all consequences.  There is no excuse for the votes of four councilors, either.  Essentially, the moratorium amounts to a “no-growth” policy, which runs contrary to the Growth Management Act (GMA).  Keep in mind that a variety of rural densities, and support for rural communities and lifestyles are supported by the GMA.

Where are the considerations for diminished property values that jeopardizes financing and sales of parcels?  This action impacts investments made in undeveloped land that now must languish in an indefinite holding pattern.  

If values of properties that can’t be divided plummet, the county still is required to collect the same amount of property taxes for services it provides.  The deficit in taxes must be shifted onto other properties that don’t suffer the consequences from the moratorium.   Everyone’s taxes will be higher to compensate for the reduced land values as a result of the  moratorium on rural land divisions.

It is a misconception to think this is just a rural issue. The moratorium will affect all property owners in Clark County, rural and urban. Councilors need to thoroughly understand all consequences to their constituents.

Clark County Citizens United trusts the Board of County Councilors will continue to vigorously pursue an appeal of the GMHB’s decision and would not adopt rules that will endanger the county’s economy, tax base, their constituents’ property rights,  and well-being.

Susan Rasmussen
Clark County Citizens United, Inc.

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