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Posted 10 Sep 2001   For week ended September 07, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 07Sep01

By Kent Larsen

Seattle-area Zoning Fight Leads Church to Support Amendment

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON -- The zoning fight that pitted local churches against environmentalists over the size of rural King county, Washington churches has led to an effort to change the county's charter. A representative of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints joined a Catholic representative in arguing for the amendment, which would add language guaranteeing religious freedom. But council members who supported the environmentalists in the earlier effort questioned the need for the change because the amendment's language is identical to that in the Washington state constitution.

The amendment, introduced by councilman Kent Pullen, requires voter approval, and the King county council must agree to place the amendment on the coming ballot. Because of ballot deadlines, the council must act in the next two weeks, if the amendment is to make November's election.

But the council's meeting on Tuesday, at which Pullen introduced the amendment, quickly fractured along the same lines that challenged the zoning of rural churches earlier in the year. That issue first came up last year when County Executive Ron Sims proposed that new churches and schools outside of the county's urban growth boundary be limited to no more than 10,000 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. But in July the council voted for looser restrictions, of 40,000 square feet, supported by local church leaders, including the LDS Church. Sims vetoed the measure, in an uneasy compromise that left the zoning laws alone and ended the 5-month-long moratorium.

Pullen, who sided with the churches earlier in the year, opened a new battle on the issue by introducing the amendment to the charter, which is the 'constitution' for the county. He says that his proposed amendment will help avoid efforts to restrict churches in the future. But other council members suggested that the amendment is a waste of time.

Councilman Larry Phillips said that since counties are legal subdivisions of the state, they are already covered by the state constitution, and Pullen's language is therefore not necessary, "What we've created here is redundancy, and I'm not sure that accomplishes anything," said Phillips. "Where do you stop?" But another councilman, Rob McKenna, observed that the county charter already repeats the state and federal civil rights protections, so redundancy isn't unprecedented.

But Councilwoman Louise Miller suggested what was more dangerous was that the amendment might suggest more than it actually says. Miller worried that the amendment would create the perception that churches have new rights in land-use struggles. County Executive Sims agreed, "If it mimics what's in the state constitution, then there's no need for it -- unless there's another agenda."


Religion debate expands to charter
Seattle WA Times 5Sep01 T1
By Eric Pryne: Seattle Times staff reporter

See also:

Seattle Church Zoning Compromise on the Way

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

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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