I-933 backers submit petitions to state

The Washington Farm Bureau and the Property Fairness Coalition said today they have submitted enough signatures to get Initiative 933 on the November ballot.

I-933 supporters gathered in Olympia Thursday morning to submit petitions for the controversial initiative to the Secretary of State’s office.

Supporters submitted more than 315,000 signatures in support of I-933, which would require state and local governments to compensation property owners when regulations damage the use or value of private property.

About 225,000 valid signatures were needed to qualify the Property Fairness Initiative for the general election in November.

“We are submitting more than enough signatures to ensure a place on the ballot,” Steve Appel, president of the Washington Farm Bureau, said in a statement to the press. “The voters in Washington will have an opportunity this fall to tell government to slow down.”

"It may be hard to believe, but there are some people who are apparently against the protection of basic property rights," Appel added. "Apparently, they don’t believe that government owes you a dime when it damages use or value of your private property. In fact, they want to see more government regulation of your property, and at your expense!”

The controversial proposal, dubbed the

"Property Fairness Initiative" by supporters and the "Developers' Initiative" by its detractors, would require governments to compensate property owners when regulations restrict the use or value of their property.

I-933 follows a similar voter-approved law in Oregon called Measure 37, which limited that state's land-use regulations and allowed property owners to file claims against Oregon if the use of their property was damaged by regulations.

I-933 critics say more than 2,200 claims for more than $3 billion in compensation have been filed in Oregon since Measure 37 was passed in 2004.

Critics also say I-933 will outlaw zoning and will prevent governments from banning junkyards and strip joints in residential neighborhoods, and will turn farms and forests into subdivisions and strip malls. Because governments must waive regulations or compensate property owners, opponents of I-933 say most governments will waive land-use rules because taxpayers won't have the money to pay property owners' claims.

The cost to taxpayers if I-933 is passed is unknown.

Opponents cite a study for a similar measure that was proposed in 1995; it predicted the cost of paying claims, legal bills and added government costs would total as much as $12 billion.

Farmers and others in Island County have been watching I-933 with great interest. Some have been highly critical of new rules Island County has adopted to restrict farming on properties with environmentally-sensitive features such as wetlands and streams, and hope the passage of I-933 will end increasing restrictions put on their farmland.

Barbara Seitle, the president of the League of Woman Voters and a Langley resident, highlighted the funding that I-933 has gotten from a group run by Howard Rich, a New York real estate developer.

Americans for Limited Government has donated $200,000 to support I-933.

“It makes sense that an out-of-state real estate developer would back Initiative 933 — he won’t have to pay the extra taxes or sit in the traffic jams that will be caused by the irresponsible development from 933,” Seitle said in a news release. “Voters have a right to know who is really behind this terrible idea.”

“Initiative 933 creates a loophole big enough to drive a bulldozer through,” added Len Barson of The Nature Conservancy. "Initiative 933 will open up our neighborhoods and natural places to irresponsible development.”

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