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The Planet

Coalition Challenges 'Takings' in Washington State

The Planet, October 1995, Volume 2, number 7

In response to "takings" legislation passed in Washington state earlier this year, a statewide Coalition of Sierra Club chapters, canvassers and citizen groups has rallied to introduce a referendum that could defeat Initiative 164, the "bad neighbor" bill, in November. In less than three months the coalition, with help from the Sierra Club's canvassers, collected more than 230,000 signatures--twice the required minimum to get a referendum on the ballot. 'This was a remarkable achievement," said Cascade Chapter member Bruce Wishart. "One volunteer alone gathered 2,000 signatures, and she's in her eighties.

More than 20 citizen groups--including the League of Women Voters, Common Cause and People for Fair Taxes--joined together to oppose the new law. The takings legislation is the product of an initiative petition that was spearheaded by the Umbrella Group, a network of "wise use" organizations in Washington state.

One of the most extreme versions of takings legislation to pass in any state so far, this initiative would require taxpayers to reimburse property owners denied full development of their property due to zoning restrictions or existing health, safety and environmental protections.

The coalition's referendum supersedes Initiative 164, putting it on hold until November when Washington voters will decide its fate. "Our job has just begun," said Wishart. 'The next step is making sure citizens understand the impact of this bad-neighbor legislation and vote 'no,'" The campaign will combine public education activities and intensified door-to-door canvassing.

"It's been tremendous to see the resurgence of activism throughout this campaign," said Wishart. "People who haven't been active for a long time are coming out of the woodwork."

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