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Tuesday, August 28, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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County extends program that protects rural land

Seattle Times staff reporter

A 3-year-old pilot program that allows developers to build more densely in urban neighborhoods if they in turn protect rural lands from development will become a permanent feature of King County's growth-management landscape.

The Metropolitan King County Council voted 10-1 yesterday to extend the program, which was to expire in October.

It allows developers to buy the "development rights" to rural lands, then transfer those rights to proposed developments inside the county's urban-growth boundary.

The result: greater density in urban areas and permanent protection of open space in rural areas, both goals of the state Growth Management Act.

Since the pilot program was adopted in 1998, it has been used to protect 700 acres of open space. The tradeoff: taller buildings in downtown Seattle's Denny Triangle and more commercial development in the mammoth Issaquah Highlands development than zoning otherwise would have allowed.

The council yesterday expanded the program to permit purchase of development rights on land in the county's Forest Production District. New lots in that district can be no smaller than 80 acres, but Ken Konigsmark of the county's Rural Forest Commission said more protection, such as that offered by the transfer program, is needed to stave off development.

"There is a market for 80-acre home sites," he told the council.

A Weyerhaeuser representative also urged that the transfer program be made permanent.

The only opposition came from Maxine Keesling of Woodinville. She said the county couldn't manage the land it already owns and that rural landowners may not know what restrictions they are accepting when they sell their development rights.

Kent Pullen, R-Kent, was the only council member to vote against the extension.

Eric Pryne can be reached at 206-464-2231 or epryne@seattletimes.com.

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