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Lot Coverage, Seattle Style, Still Affects Property Rights

Three years ago, the Arlington County Board was on course to approve a zoning ordinance that would reduce lot coverage from the current 56%. Because of community concerns that reducing the size of homes that could be built would negatively impact property values, the County Board put off further consideration. The issue of property rights has now become an issue in King County, Washington, where a central feature of a proposed ordinance from the county executive "is that each rural residential landowner must leave 65 percent of his or her land in a natural state, with no more than 10 percent of the land covered by impervious surface," according to a column in the June 4, 2004 Seattle Times.

One state senator, writing in the May 18 Seattle Times, offers an alternative approach involving a bond referendum. Voters could decide if buying and setting aside large tracts of land was an important community priority. According to a FoxNews story on July 1, "Most of the residents who will be directly affected . . . are fuming." One resident was blunt about it, saying, "My take is it's stealing -- out and out stealing." In commenting on the FoxNews story, the Cato Institute wrote that Congress should "enact legislation that specifies the Constitutional rights of property owners under the Fifth Amendment's Just Compensation Claus."

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