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Expect to see I-933 on November ballot
Seattle Times staff reporter
Backers of a controversial property-rights initiative filed petitions Thursday bearing 315,000 signatures in support of the measure, almost guaranteeing it will appear on the November ballot.
They also set the stage for what's likely to be one of the noisiest issue campaigns in the state this fall.
To qualify, Initiative 933 needs the signatures of 224,880 registered voters by today's deadline. While the Secretary of State's office must verify the petition signatures, the property-rights measure appears to have a much larger cushion than what's usually needed.
Its success in reaching the ballot isn't a surprise. Initiative campaigns with the resources to employ paid signature-gatherers almost always qualify, and I-933's supporters, led by the Washington Farm Bureau, had enough money to start paying for signatures as soon as the petitions were printed.
The initiative, inspired by a similar measure Oregon voters approved in 2004, would require state and local governments either to compensate property owners when regulations lower property values or to waive those rules.
It's retroactive: Owners would be entitled to waivers or compensation for restrictions imposed after 1995.
Farm Bureau spokesman Dean Boyer said I-933 is needed to protect property owners from increasingly intrusive rules that reduce property values. "Government land-use regulations have increased exponentially in the past 10 years," he said
Initiative 933 on the ballot
Here's the exact language voters will see on the November ballot:
"Initiative Measure 933 concerns government regulation of private property. This measure would require compensation when government regulation damages the use or value of private property, would forbid regulations that prohibit existing legal uses of private property, and would provide exceptions or payments. Should this measure be enacted into law?"
Source: Secretary of State's office
Opponents said I-933 is a "developer's initiative" that would gut zoning and other regulations that protect communities and the environment, imposing new bureaucratic burdens on local governments and fiscal burdens on taxpayers.
"It will remove a lot of the protections that people take for granted," said Barbara Seitle, president of the League of Women Voters of Washington.
While the election is four months away, total fundraising by both sides is approaching $1 million.
The pro-933 Property Fairness Coalition consists mostly of farm and local property-rights groups. The most recent reports filed with the state Public Disclosure Commission indicate the coalition has raised more than $500,000 in cash and in-kind contributions, and spent $352,000.
Americans for Limited Government, a national organization based in Chicago, has given $200,000. The group, whose leaders are associated with the term-limits movement and other conservative causes, is backing property-rights and spending-cap measures in 12 states this year.
The state Farm Bureau has donated the equivalent of $151,000 in staff time, office support and other in-kind contributions, and has loaned the campaign an additional $69,000.
The lion's share of the pro-933 campaign spending — $240,000 through the end of May — has gone to Citizen Solutions, a Lacey paid-signature-gathering firm.
The opposition group, Citizens for Community Protection, is dominated by environmental, labor and Democratic organizations. It had raised $388,000 through the end of May and spent $184,000.
Its largest contributors included the anti-sprawl group Futurewise, $96,000; retired software entrepreneur Paul Brainerd, $50,000; and The Nature Conservancy, $41,000. It has been 11 years since Washington voters considered a property-rights proposal. In 1995, a Republican-dominated Legislature approved a law similar to I-933, but opponents collected enough signatures to put the law on the ballot, and voters repealed it that November by a 60-to-40 ratio.
Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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