King County announces program to conserve rural land

July 25, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 6 a.m. July 25, 2012

King County and Seattle leaders unveiled a land-use program Tuesday similar to the successful Issaquah program used to conserve the Park Pointe site on Tiger Mountain.

King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said the program is meant to improve infrastructure in South Lake Union and preserve 25,000 acres of forests and farmland in rural areas.

“This is the definition of win-win,” McGinn said in a statement. “We will continue to concentrate growth in our urban neighborhoods, where the jobs are and where people want to live and work. In return we will receive important benefits for the city and permanently secure more rural areas as forests and working farms.”

The effort, called the Landscape Conservation and Local Infrastructure Program, is the result of collaboration among the city and county, and the nonprofit organization Forterra. The program enables cities to access a portion of King County’s property tax increment resulting from development if a certain percentage of development results from the use of transferable development rights, or TDRs.

The program calls for a portion of incentive zoning — 5 percent in downtown Seattle and 33 percent in South Lake Union — to be gained through the purchase of regional TDRs. In exchange, the city receives a portion of future county property tax revenue from development occurring in the area for up to 25 years.

The city can then use the dollars to fund infrastructure improvements, such as sidewalks and parks, and perhaps a South Lake Union community center.

The program is similar to the transfer of development rights used by Issaquah officials to prevent development on forested Park Pointe, a slice of Tiger Mountain near Issaquah High School.

Under the agreement approved in March 2011, city leaders steered construction from Park Pointe to the Issaquah Highlands instead, and, as a result, preserved more than 140 acres in the process.

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