In its latest spasm of judicial activism, the Washington State Supreme Court’s decision on Island Crossing effectively repeals the voter-approved Growth Management Act, a regulation that discouraged the financial folly of building cities on floodplain farmland. (Friday article, “Dwayne Lane can build in Arlington, court says.”) Not that we need further proof, these days, of the cost of letting lawyers run the country.
When last the Supremes meddled in land-use law, in Lewis County, they cleared the way for urbanization of the floodplain at Chehalis. The result was disaster, complete with instructive photos of new development (notably a number of car dealerships) under several feet of water. The public paid millions to clean up the mess. As a wise man once said, in the floodplain the river holds first mortgage. All others are subprime.
Serenely indifferent to such real-life consequences, the court actually cites Lewis as legal precedent (yes, really) in this latest decision, which permits Snohomish County to ignore a strikingly similar hydraulic reality at Island Crossing. And never mind that the land also has some of the best agricultural soil in the Stillaguamish Valley, where farmers are already short of acreage needed to meet growing demand for hay, potatoes, grain, seed, berries and other commercial crops. So much for state protection of resource lands.
But the gutting of the GMA doesn’t prevent our County Council from rejecting, even now, the economic lunacy of underwriting floodplain urbanization. As profitable as it is for the well-connected few, who else but the taxpayers will fund the inevitable bailout?