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Councilmember John Koster  March 2008
Council Meetings now Webcast
Rural Burn Ban



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John Koster
Snohomish County Council

3000 Rockefeller Ave., M/S
609 Everett, WA 98201

Office Location:
8th floor,
Robert J. Drewel Building 
Phone: 425-388-3494

[email protected]

Barbara Chapman, Legislative Aide

John Koster's eNewsletter
John KosterDear Friend, 
Welcome to the first edition of my eNewsletter. Sending newsletters by e-mail is an inexpensive and convenient way for me to keep in touch with friends and constituents.
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[email protected].
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Government Transparency 

council meetingCounty Council Meetings
Now Webcast
The County Council has taken a big step to increase public access to county government. Beginning in February, all meetings of the  Council are being broadcast or webcast on the Internet.
Residents can now watch county public hearings and council committee meetings any time over the Internet.
Link to Council Webcasts to see live and archived meetings, agendas and minutes.
Burn BanRural Residential Burn Ban Put Off for Time Being
The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency decided Feb. 21 to put off voting on new regulations banning the burning of all residential yard waste.
The agency did ban the burning of land-clearing debris associated with development, beginning this July.
I support the latter rule change because developers have access to industrial-sized wood chipping equipment, but I oppose
imposing such costly and impractical burdens on individual homeowners in rural Snohomish County.
The agency told its staff to report back this fall with ideas for helping rural residents dispose of debris without burning; so this issue is not going away. I will keep you up to date.
The following commentary appeared in The Herald on March 16. 

Base growth decisions on facts, not hysteria

In their March 2 guest commentary in the Herald, "Blast the sirens: we have an emergency," Cindy Howard and Ellen Hiatt Watson weave a tapestry of light and dark to demonstrate an awesome talent for alarmism without cause.

Howard and Hiatt Watson envision that the immediate future could see an application for a fully contained community (FCC) which would create a vested right to build an FCC, rendering the county powerless to prevent the destruction of rural Snohomish County.

They are wrong.

Before an FCC application can be filed, the applicant must complete a detailed and lengthy pre-application process, requiring several months to complete. This process includes public meetings to obtain and respond to citizen comments. Our FCC code stringently demands an adequate road system, fire protection, water supply, waste disposal, open space, recreational facilities, a complex housing mix including various categories of affordable housing, employment, and on and on. Although I am opposed to an FCC in the Seven Lakes area, one might possibly make sense somewhere else. And no FCC anywhere would ever be approved unless it met all the infrastructure requirements and made sense.

In the Seven Lakes area, McNaughton has not proposed an FCC. However, McNaughton proposed a rural cluster subdivision of 640 homes, and has further requested rezone on GMA Docket 12 to uptick the density to 880 homes. I alone on the council voted against this density uptick.

McNaughton recently abandoned the required environmental review of his rezone proposal on GMA Docket 12, and county Planning Director Craig Ladiser has informed the County Council that McNaughton will need to re-apply for Docket 13. The council will decide whether to approve or disapprove the application, to which I remain opposed.

In short, there simply is no emergency; nor any call for an emergency moratorium.

Filing an application for an FCC does not create a vested right to an FCC. The lead attorney of the Land Use Division of the Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney's office has specifically advised me in writing that the mere filing of an FCC application does not create a vested right. The County Council always retains the discretion to deny an FCC.

I stand by my statement that under our regulations the County Council has the ultimate authority to approve/deny a proposed FCC. A majority of the council must be persuaded that the county code is met and a proposed FCC is in the best interests of the county. If the project cannot pass this test, it will be denied.

Let's review some history as an antidote for hysteria. In late 2002, County Executive Bob Drewel first brought forward the proposed comprehensive plan policies that would permit FCCs. The policies were reviewed by Snohomish County Tomorrow -- the body where county, towns and cities in the county meet to deliberate and collaborate on plans for the future of the county. SCT unanimously recommended approval of the policies.

Our Planning Commission held public hearings and considered the policies. The Planning Commission unanimously approved the policies.

In late 2003 the policies came before the County Council. Several council members, and, in particular, Councilman Dave Gossett, were concerned that the policies were too general to be sure that a proposed FCC would meet the stringent requirements necessary to ensure that the public interest would be safeguarded. The council remanded the policies to the planning department to prepare the detailed regulations that would apply to any proposed FCC. This is the same County Council that Howard and Hiatt Watson label as "pro-growth." This is also the same "pro-growth" council that in December of 2005 rejected dozens of development proposals for the Southwest Urban Growth Area.

The administration of Executive Aaron Reardon prepared detailed regulations with input from all interested parties, including a panel of citizen representatives. The administration recommended approval of the policies and the regulations. Once again, they were reviewed by SCT and by the Planning Commission. Both agencies recommended approval. In December 2005 -- three years after the process had begun -- the County Council unanimously adopted the policies and regulations.

Compare the process described above to the one that Howard and Hiatt Watson applaud -- an "emergency" ordinance where there is no emergency, brought forward with no notice, no review by the planning staff, no review by the prosecuting attorney, no opportunity for public comment, and when one of the two council members who had participated fully in the earlier process was out of town. Which of these two processes is the better way for this county to establish its policies and to conduct its business?

My commitment to protect the rural areas of Snohomish County, where I have lived my entire life, is second to none. I believe that this commitment is best expressed by following the laws and procedures we have established to guide development so that a decision can be made based on facts, not hysteria.

I hope you found this eNEWSLETTER to be informative and useful. You can make it even more valuable by suggesting topics and issues for future newsletters. Please contact me at 425-388-3494, or e-mail [email protected]. If you would like to share this newsletter, select the Forward email link below.

John Koster
Snohomish County Council