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
Church Tells King County: Rural Limits Unconstitutional
Seattle Zoning Battle Shifts to Washington State Legislature
Seattle Area Ban on New Chapels Inconveniences Area Churches