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King County Executive
Dow Constantine


Snoqualmie Valley farmland protected by King County development rights program

Summary

A family-operated organic farm near Carnation has been protected from suburban development under King County’s innovative Transfer of Development Rights Program (TDR), and County Executive Dow Constantine says he is committed to permanently protecting 850 more acres of fertile agricultural land throughout the rural areas to sustain the supply of fresh, local food to urban farmers markets.

Story

John Huschle and Anna Davidson

A family-operated organic farm near Carnation has been protected from suburban development under King County’s innovative Transfer of Development Rights Program (TDR), and County Executive Dow Constantine says he is committed to permanently protecting 850 more acres of fertile agricultural land throughout the rural areas to sustain the supply of fresh, local food to urban farmers markets.

“This proven approach steers development away from our region’s farms and forests, into the urban areas where we already have the services to support it,” said Executive Constantine. “Rural farms face intense pressure from development, but when protected through transfers of development rights, they can help ensure a consistent, fresh, local food supply to city residents for generations to come.”

The transfer of development rights enabled the owners of the “Nature’s Last Stand” farm, the husband-and wife team of John Huschle and Anna Davidson, to buy the land outright in order to keep it active as a farm that provides locally-grown food for years to come.

“Nothing is more tenuous to a farmer than knowing whether or not you’ll be on the land in the future,” said Huschle. “We have been farming in the Snoqualmie Valley for more than 15 years, but always through leases on different properties. When you own the land, you have the security of knowing your farm – and your family’s livelihood – will be there for years to come.”

“Preserving the land and protecting a small family is the right thing to do,” added Davidson.

“Through this innovative program we are helping local farmers like John and Anna, as well as permanently protecting the farmland itself,” said Executive Constantine.

King County currently has 59 active farms in its rural areas supplying weekly city farmers markets; Seattle alone has 11 weekly farmers markets supplied by these farms. An estimated 850 acres of rural farmlands – comprising 49 of the 59 active farms - are unprotected and remain vulnerable to the threat of conversion to residential and suburban development. Once built upon, the land can no longer produce food as a financially sustainable farm.

The King County TDR Program is a voluntary land use incentive which provides financial incentives for willing landowners to sell development rights in exchange for a permanent conservation easement. Developers then buy the development credits to use inside cities to add additional square footage to their projects.

The Executive said he hopes to renew an agreement with the city of Seattle that expired in 2008, and develop new agreements with other cities, to allow developers to take advantage of the TDR Program. Proceeds from TDR sales will be used to save more farmland and invest in in-city neighborhood amenities where the development potential is realized. Such agreements are already in place between King County and the cities of Bellevue and Issaquah.

King County’s TDR Program is recognized regionally and nationally as the most successful of its kind in the nation since its inception in the late 1990’s, and continues to be an integral tool in the County’s open space and habitat protection efforts.

Over the past decade the King County TDR Program has protected more than 141,000 acres of rural and resource lands from development – more than 220 square miles – by steering subdivisions for 2,284 potential dwelling units out of the County’s rural landscape and into the existing urban areas.



Related information

King County Executive
Dow Constantine
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