Wendy DiPeso commented on my piece
“As long as the Counties are allowed to continue to issue permits for new housing developments outside of city limits we will continue to see expanding sprawl,.. because it is cheaper to build on county land with no requirements for providing service. Cities end up paying to add services when they incorporate the new developments. It is as if tax payers
subsidize developers that build in unincorporated areas.”
Right you are, Wendy. I have to give King County credit for honesty.
There’s a budgetary thing they actually call “the urban subsidy”. Standard
& Poor’s (Oct. 13, 2008) said it this way: “County finances continue to face the challenge of providing local municipality-like services to 370,000 residents living in unincorporated King County. The cost of providing
these services ($46.7 million in 2008) exceeds the revenues generated in the unincorporated areas ($25.1 million), producing a so-called "urban
subsidy" to unincorporated areas of $21.1 million per year.”
Basically, city residents pay their property taxes to the city and get basic services in return. KingCo residents pay their property taxes and the county… builds roads. Then they charge all of us, not just out-county people, but even those of us in the cities more money to cover the basic services for those people.
It’s been recognized by other jurisdictions, like Woodinville in May 2003, in the text of a city resolution, where they said “Section 2. The
Woodinville City Council requests King County not to increase urban subsidy of rural services and to spend levy resources collected from incorporated areas only on regional parks and facilities.” Clearly they were worried urban tax monies had the potential to go off and do things other than what they wanted.
The farther a home is from a city center the more expensive it is to serve with county services, and those costs go up geometrically. I know we’re all in this together, and I don’t have any problem contributing to the welfare of the less fortunate, but I have a big problem subsidizing people who are
wealthy enough to have their McMansion way out yonder, and especially those who endlessly complain about how much tax they pay!
King County in their 2004 budget said “Implementation of the growth management vision in King County had early significant successes. As late as 1989, more than 40% of King County’s population resided in the unincorporated area. In 1989 new cities began to incorporate; major commercial development areas were also annexed to cities. From 1989 through 1999, ten new cities incorporated and 323,800 unincorporated residents became city residents. The percentage of County residents living outside cities was nearly cut in half: by 2000, only 21% of the County population lived outside cities. In the last few years, however, the pace of annexation has slowed dramatically. From 2000 through April 2003 only 7,600 residents annexed to cities.”
Peachy- urbanized areas are being annexed to the cities or incorporated. They’re better and more efficiently served (us, for instance). Seattle really should annex all adjacent areas to their south- Skyway, White Center/”North Highline”, and such, but… there’s one glaring ugliness in here: those areas only got urbanized because the County has traditionally handed out building permits like popcorn, terrified of legal claims and challenges.
You want to solve local governments’ budget problems? Stop sprawl! What I’d really like to see is… (Gasoline? Meet match. Match? Gasoline)… not one tax penny spent on further road construction. In fact, I hope for a law mandating that for every square foot of additional pavement laid inside an incorporated area at least an equivalent area must be removed from an exurban area. The sprawl must be removed furthest-from-a-city first, or agricultural areas first, or newest first, or by some similar criterion so we literally roll back sprawl and reinvigorate agriculture and natural habitats in the region.