Washington Supreme Court sets conference date for PLF’s big buffer case


Author: Brian T. Hodges

Big buffers may be the easiest way for government to protect environmentally sensitive areas, but that does not mean they are necessary – let alone lawful.  Arguing that big buffers are necessary to assure that land use activities do not harm the environment is like arguing that government can decrease the number of auto accidents that teens get into by prohibiting them from driving.  Sure, over-regulation can achieve certain results, but it does so by unnecessarily burdening unrelated activity as well. 

For over five years, PLF has been arguing that Kitsap County’s decision to impose identical 100-foot buffers on every rural shoreline lot constitutes unnecessary over-regulation of private property in the case, Kitsap Alliance for Property Owners v. Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board.  Why is it necessary to put a buffer on a fully-developed residential property?  A parking lot?  A car dealership?  All of the science on buffers concludes that the functionality of a buffer will vary based on existing land uses.  So why did Kitsap County adopt prescriptive big buffers?

To date, the only answer we have received from the County has been that it is more “administratively feasible” (i.e., easier) to put the exact same buffer on all properties without regard to the actual existing conditions.  That kind of answer was inexcusable to my 6th grade math teacher (“show your work!”) and should be unacceptable here where the government wants to take away a hundred of feet of valuable shoreline property.

After fighting this case up and down through the courts for a half-decade, this issue is finally set up for review.  Washington’s Supreme Court has scheduled its conference to consider taking review of this important case for July 12, 2011.