State Voters Have Spoken: They Don’t Want Takings Legislation!

To celebrate the 24th year of publishing Whatcom Watch, we will be printing excerpts from 20 years ago. David M. Laws has been generous enough to volunteer to review the Whatcom Watch for 20 years ago to find suitable material to reprint. The below excerpts are from the February 1996 issue of Whatcom Watch.


Remember Referendum 48, the extra-constitutional takings law that big developers and big timber tried to pawn off on the taxpayers last year? Remember Ref. 48 spokesman Dale Foreman? He described this situation where taxpayers should have to pay property owners for a “takings”: if you tell someone they can’t spray two rows of trees because pesticide spray drift might harm schoolchildren in a neighboring schoolyard, that’s a takings and the owners should be paid fair market value for the trees.

Well, Mr. Foreman is at it again: he and others have created “Son of 48” for this year’s legislature. You might think that a 60-40 loss in the last election would send a message to these folks, but not according to them, we just wanted the law clarified. Taxpayers are still interested in paying speculators to protect the value of our property and the quality of life in our neighborhoods or in paying not to have our children misted with pesticides.

Maybe Mr. Foreman didn’t read the “Bond Buyer” when it reported that the referendum’s compensation scheme “threatened the creditworthiness of local government issuers.” Perhaps Mr. Foreman missed the article stating that Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s Corporation were concerned because of the “potentially crippling effects the measure could have had on the general fund budgets of local governments.”
In other words, had Washington taxpayers not been savvy enough to notice the hand poised to pick their pockets if the referendum had passed, Ref. 48 could have had devastating financial repercussions on our credit ratings. “Son of 48” can have the same effect. You can put nicer clothes on a blood-sucking leech, but it’s still a leach.

Let’s let the courts continue to interpret the Constitution according to the specifics of each case, just as they have for over two hundred years.

Meanwhile, regulatory reform is underway and deserves a chance to prove itself. Unlike the special interests that tried to snow us with Ref. 48, regulatory reform has been a broadly-based and reasonable attempt to streamline government. All the Stakeholders sat at the table and everyone compromised in order to move the process forward.

So, please, call your representative in Olympia today with a simple message – no more takings bills in any form. They are legal and financial nightmares. And remember, the financial markets are watching.


Sherilyn Wells, along with Rebecca Meloy and Lorena Havens, is a founder of Whatcom Watch.


Rulings Against Growth Management Laws in Whatcom County
by Nicole Oliver

June 30, 1994: The Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board rules against Whatcom County. The board overturns Referendum 92-3 on the grounds that the county did not go through the proper public process and review before enacting the referendum.

October 13, 1994: The growth management hearings board again rules against Whatcom County. The board says the county failed to adopt interim urban growth areas (IUCB) based upon a reasonable analysis of appropriate information.

November 9, 1994: For the third time in the past five months, the hearings board rules against Whatcom County. The board’s order states that the county cannot establish growth areas beyond existing city limits until justified by proper analysis.

December 8, 1994: The Washington State Supreme Court rules 8-1 against Steve Brisbane. The court overturns Referendum 92-3. It rules that state growth laws are not subject to the home-rule referendum process.

February 23, 1995: The Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board rules Whatcom County has refused to take any action in response to the board’s November 9 order. The county is still not in compliance with the interim urban growth area (IUGA) requirements.

March 16, 1995: The growth management hearings board recommends Governor Lowry withhold money (sales taxes, liquor taxes, transportation funds, etc.) from Whatcom County until the county council complies with the law.

December 20, 1995: The Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board rules that Whatcom County has 120 days to bring the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) into compliance. The county cannot process development application until the county council provides adequate protection for lakes, rivers and streams, wetlands, shellfish, fish and wildlife.

December 28, 1995: The growth management hearings board finds Whatcom County has still failed to enact lawful interim urban growth boundaries (UGB).