In a state whose politics are virtually defined by over-reaching, ill-conceived initiatives, I-933 stands out as a poorly written pro-developer measure that even most developers can’t bring themselves to actively support. And in an initiative process ruled by self-serving, dishonest sociopaths, the Farm Bureau’s I-933 front-man, Dan Wood vies with John Bircher Dennis Falk (I-920) and professional liar Tim Eyman (I-nothin’) for the title of WA’s Biggest Hypocrite.
I-933 is intended to dismantle WA’s land-use regulations. Not just some of them, like King County’s controversial Critical Areas Ordinance, but all of them. Completely. The poorly written initiative will surely be a windfall for lawyers as property owners, developers and governments battle to figure out exactly what it means, but one thing is for certain, it’s “pay or waive” provision will cost taxpayers billions will undermining some of government’s most fundamental regulatory authority. You know, the basic zoning, environmental and health and safety regulations that we all take for granted.
And Dan Wood thinks this is a good thing. Here’s what he said back in January when he filed I-933:
Wood said broad government regulations have made it increasingly difficult for farmers and ranchers, and other property owners in Washington, to use and enjoy their land in reasonable ways.
“The bottom line is that government agencies need to respect individual property rights,” Wood said. “Our initiative will go a long way toward ensuring that property owners can continue to use their land in reasonable and productive ways, without excessive, burdensome and unnecessary government regulations.”
Dan Wood hates government regulation. That’s why he’s sponsoring an initiative that would make it virtually impossible to enforce new land-use and environmental regulations, while rolling back existing regulations to 1996 and beyond.
And yet, Wood seemed to express a different sentiment back in August of 2005 when he testified before the Hoquiam City Council in favor of regulations on a local fish meal plant, because the stench was reducing his property value:
Dan Wood, a former county commissioner, has been trying to find renters for his property a few blocks downwind from the plant. He says the smell is “everywhere — in the bathroom, living room, dining room and kitchen.”
“I don’t want Ocean Protein shut down. I want them to provide the jobs but I do want them to be neighborly,” he said at a recent City Council meeting. “And if that means a temporary shutdown on a voluntary basis from their end, that’s what a good neighbor would do.”
The Olympic Region Clean Air Agency has been monitoring the plant since it opened and has filed at least 14 notices against the company because of the smell.
Attorneys for the agency plan to ask a Grays Harbor Superior Court judge for an injunction Aug. 8 to halt its operations.
The beauty of this snippet is not only that it paints Wood as the self-serving hypocrite he apparently is, it also perfectly illustrates the ideological fallacy that permeates nearly all of I-933’s literature — that by doing away with or severely restricting government’s regulatory authority the initiative protects property owner’s rights… when in reality, the opposite will more likely be the result. That’s because, as Wood’s fishy-smelling rental home clearly shows, how you use your property can severely impact how I use mine.
I’m not sure what was the final result of local regulatory efforts to get Ocean Protein to clean up its act, but if I-933 passes the fish meal processing plant will be free to blanket the surrounding neighborhoods with its foul-smelling odor, or force the local government to pay for the cost of the clean-up. Woods rental property could become virtually worthless.
And I’m not just blowing smoke here. The Hoquiam ordinance regulating air quality (10.05.120) was passed in 2000, and fish processing was already a permitted use of the Ocean Protein site back in 1996, the year to which I-933 is retroactive. Thus any attempt to restrict or regulate the plant’s activities would most definitely be subject to I-933’s “pay or waive” provision, regardless of when the regulations were first passed.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see what type of impact this can have on property owners statewide. We all bought our properties with the expectation that zoning and other regulations would protect our investments, but I-933’s provisions throw all that stability out the window.
And of course, the impact of one’s land use can impact property owners far beyond one’s local neighborhood. Agricultural runoff and industrial discharges pollute all our waterways, clear cutting critical areas can destroy our vital watersheds, and in addition to destroying the natural splendor at the core of the Northwest quality of life, unrestricted development can clog roads, overburden utilities and dramatically increase costs for local taxpayers.
There is a broad social compact that has governed our nation for hundreds of years that recognizes that individual property rights do not extend unfettered all the way to the property line. This is a social compact that I-933 seeks to break to the detriment of us all… including its backers.
The Sightline Institute just released a new report, “Property Wrongs: Lessons from Oregon for states considering property ballot measures in 2006.” This is a must read for anybody truly interested in learning about this issue.