(King County 2016 Comp Plan)

Legislators in Olympia are in a hurry to push through a flurry of bills before cutoff deadlines would make them dead. One of those bills is HB 1504, which would modify the state Growth Management Act (GMA) by carving out new special use provisions for “freight rail dependent uses” and short line railroads. The change may seem practical. Why not plan for commercially- and industrially-based rail uses? The trick is that it would allow cities and counties to adopt new development regulations on resource lands adjacent to short line railroads and permit new industrial developments to directly serve freight rail. That could have major negative impacts on natural resources and farmland, which we sorely need with the rising tide of climate change. It’s a penny wise, pound foolish notion that we sacrifice such limited arable lands today for a quick buck.

Futurewise, Washington’s fierce fighter for sustainable development and growth, sent an e-mail blast this morning urging environmentalists and urban advocates to oppose this bill in the House where it could be taken up for a vote today:

The House is poised to vote on a bill that will allow the destruction of agricultural, forest, and mineral lands of commercial significance.  These designations were established specifically to protect and preserve our natural resources–in particular, farm land that has prime soils for agricultural production.

This bill is aimed at currently protected farmland in Clark County that is adjacent to a railroad, but would also allow it state wide. Clark County has a thriving agricultural industry, farm-related income is up 41 percent from 2007 through 2012 accounting for $5.98 million of income. This would increase the pressures on neighboring farms and further the loss of productive farm land.

Not only will this bill allow freight-related industrial development in these areas, but allowing industrial uses outside cities and towns will significantly impact the value and viability of industrial lands in places where they do belong.

Email your legislator today and ask them to VOTE NO on HB 1504 that will allow for the destruction of farmland!

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Doug Trumm is publisher of The Urbanist. An Urbanist writer since 2015, he dreams of pedestrianizing streets, blanketing the city in bus lanes, and unleashing a mass timber building spree to end the affordable housing shortage and avert our coming climate catastrophe. He graduated from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington in 2019. He lives in East Fremont and loves to explore the city on his bike.