Yes, you read that correctly. As Seattle Times columnist Bruce Ramsey explains:
Edwina Johnson is 71 and working as a substitute teacher in the Seattle Schools. She has no private pension. Her retirement nest egg is a half-interest in 30 acres at Preston, on the south side of I-90 — land that on Jan. 1 will become subject to King County's new Critical Areas Ordinances, under which 65 percent of it must remain undisturbed.
The property has two streams, each so small they run only in the spring. Under the ordinance, the land around these streams is to remain undisturbed.
Among environmental believers, the litany is that such sacrifices are in the public good, and that the heathens who resist them are motivated by "greed." But every piece of property is owned, most often by someone who worked for it. Johnson bought hers in 1977 at a moment of prosperity. She has been taking care of it, and paying taxes on it, ever since.
"They're taking my property for the benefit of the state," she says. "This is my retirement investment. I can't start over again. This is it."
If you have five acres or less, the county wants to make a nature preserve of half of your land; if you have 7.5 acres or more, it wants 65 percent. If you have a stream or a pond, it wants the land around that. If you already cleared your land, you're OK.
"All the people who developed their property are not affected by this," says Johnson, "but I, who kept my property in pristine condition, bear the whole weight of it."
What King County is trying to do, said attorney Sandy Mackie of Perkins Coie, at a speech Monday to Law Seminars International, is to compel the protection of habitat "to the maximum extent permissible under the Constitution" without having to pay the people who own it.
The political motivation for this did not come from the rural area. The three rural representatives on the County Council — Republicans Kathy Lambert, David Irons and Steve Hammond — voted against it, as did the three suburban Republicans. Rural people, says Hammond, "see this as imposed on them by a foreign government" — the county government based in deep-blue Seattle and dominated by urban Democrats.
There is a cultural divide.
A divide the Fly Under the Bridge Academy finds itself on the short end. Situated as it is on 26 acres in semi-rural southeast King County, Washington.