SEATTLE PORT URGES REPEAL OF PROPERTY RIGHTS ACT

SEATTLE PORT URGES REPEAL OF PROPERTY RIGHTS ACT

Faced with the prospect of unknown additional expenses and a possible chilling effect on the acquisition of property for commercial development, the Port of Seattle is pushing for the repeal of a Washington state private property measure.

Port commissioners adopted a resolution in support of a statewide referendum calling for the repeal of Initiative 164, the Private Property Regulatory Fairness Act, which was adopted by the state legislature this year.Under the act, state and local jurisdictions must compensate private property owners when they take part, or all, of their property for a public benefit. The law also requires a potentially lengthy and costly economic impact statement, similar to an environmental impact statement, as a prerequisite to government land use regulatory actions.

Opponents of the law, including a host of mainly environmental, community, labor and some business groups, say I-164 goes too far beyond U.S. and state constitutional prohibitions on the "taking" of private property without just compensation. A broad redefinition of "takings" in the law, they argue, requires taxpayers to pay land owners for any value lost, or zoning regulations cannot be enacted or enforced.

Proponents say the measure simply provides fair compensation to injured property owners. They add that it is misleading to say it will cost government large sums of money. Under the act, regulations designed to prevent a person

from using their land in a manner that "annoys or injures" someone else are exempt from compensation requirements.

"Initiative 164 is not adequate legislation to accomplish its intended purpose," said the Port of Seattle, "and will not serve the public interest."

That's because it "lacks clear definitions, is vaguely drafted and is poorly integrated with existing law," the port said. Further, the initiative will impose significant procedural and substantive burdens, and "will increase development costs and create delay rather than streamline the land- use regulatory process."

Perhaps most vital, the measure will impose "substantial financial burdens on public agencies and taxpayers," the port said.

Other ports in the region, such as Tacoma, have not taken a position on the initiative. The Washington Public Ports Association, representing 76 large and small public port districts in the state, is taking "no official position," said Chris Townley, a spokeswoman for the group. "Our ports are very diverse and some feel strongly pro and con" about the initiative, she said.

Other major businesses in the region, such as Weyerhaeuser Co., the forest products company, and Boeing Co., are maintaining a neutral stance.

Opponents collected over 90,000 signatures to place the initiative on the November ballot.