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Posted 11 Jun 2001   For week ended June 08, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 10Jun01

By Kent Larsen

Despite Local LDS Grass-roots Effort, Seattle Church Zoning Battle Continues

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON -- The year-long battle over size limits on churches and schools in the rural portion of Washington's King county continues after yesterday's county council meeting, and no end is in sight. In hopes of defeating a proposed ordinance, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discussed the issue in "adult-education classes" throughout the region, Gordon Conger, representing the Church's Northwest Area Presidency, told the Seattle Times. But while Council members reported receiving hundreds of email messages yesterday, the issue never came up for a vote.

The battle arose last year when King County Executive Ron Sims proposed size limits of just 10,000 square feet on new buildings outside of the county's "urban-growth boundary" (i.e., the area currently zoned to stay rural). Since then the proposal has been loosened to prohibit new buildings in excess of 40,000 square feet. In February the council passed a moratorium on new construction until December to allow time for a task force to study the issue.

Meanwhile, battle lines over the proposal have developed, fracturing the council basically along party lines, with one Republican and six Democrats on the 13-member council supporting a plan by Seattle Democrat Cynthia Sullivan to implement the 40,000-square-foot limit -- until late last week, when Councilwoman Maggi Fimia, a Shoreline Democrat, backed out of a commitment to support Sullivan's plan. Fimia's defection left the proponents of the limits without a majority and led Sullivan to give up. "I've exhausted all the options I think are reasonable," she said.

But Fimia now believes she can reach a compromise that will pass the council, and scheduled a meeting for thismorning to discuss a new compromise. "I think we can get there," she told the Seattle Times last night. But while Fimia believes she can get the support of the six Republicans who have fought the size limits, any legislation must still be signed by County Executive Sims, who proposed the original, stricter limits. One Sims aid, Stephanie Warden, director of the Office of Regional Policy and Planning, said she doubted Fimia and the Republicans could draft legislation Sims would sign.

The LDS Church and other Seattle area Churches have joined forces to oppose the legislation, and Catholic Archbishop Alexander Brunett even wrote a newspaper column arguing against Sims' proposal and threatening a lawsuit and retaliation at the polls if the limit was approved. In support of Brunett's lawsuit threat, the LDS Church had its Utah-based law firm, Kirton &McConkie, draft a six-page legal analysis that indicated the proposal was unconstitutional under both the US Constitution and Washington State's constitution.

Meanwhile, a campaign orchestrated by the leaders of the various churches flooded the mailboxes of council members and deluged them with phone calls. Sullivan told the Times that she had received 837 email messages by 11:30 am yesterday.

Both the Catholic Church and the LDS Church encouraged members to take action on Sunday. Catholic Archbishop Alexander Brunett ordered a letter on the issue read in Mass on Sunday, telling priests in a cover letter that "The restrictions this council is proposing would prevent us from building any new churches and schools in the future," And Conger said that the issue was discussed Sunday in LDS meetings.


Church battle hasn't a prayer of quick end
Seattle WA Times 5Jun01 T1
By Eric Pryne: Seattle Times staff reporter

See also:

Church Tells King County: Rural Limits Unconstitutional

Seattle Zoning Battle Shifts to Washington State Legislature

Seattle Area Ban on New Chapels Inconveniences Area Churches


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Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information