In a decision that is certain to cause a few ripples in city and county planning departments, Division I of the Court of Appeals held that a King County Ordinance which limits clearing on property zoned rural area residential to a maximum of 50 percent, depending on the size of the parcel, violates RCW 82.02.020. Citizens' Alliance For Property Rights v. Ron Sims, ___Wn.App.___ (June 4, 2008). Finding parallels in the City of Camas' 30 percent open space set-aside for residential subdivision development struck down by the Washington State Supreme Court in Isla Verde Int'l Holdings, Inc. v. City of Camas, 146 Wn.2d 740, 752, 49 P.3d 867 (2002), the Court of Appeals had no trouble holding that the clearing limits in the King County ordinance imposed an in kind indirect "tax, fee, or charge" on development prohibited by RCW 82.02.020. In so holding, the Court rejected County arguments that RCW 82.02.020 did not apply because the clearing limits were adopted pursuant to mandatory Growth Management Act requirements that require protection of critical areas
The Court found that the clearing limits adopted by King County were not required by the Growth Management Act. The Court also rejected County attempts to bring the clearing ordinance within the exception to RCW 82.02.020 for development restrictions that are "reasonably necessary as a direct result of the proposed development or plat." The Court found that the King County clearing limits impose "a uniform requirement for cleared area on each lot, unrelated to any evaluation of the demonstrated impact of proposed development." The variation in clearing restrictions was based on lot size, not development, and thus was not proportionally related to proposed development, a necessary element to satisfy the statutory exception to RCW 82.020.020.
A copy of the Court's opinion can be found here.