Proposed law violates Constitution by Ron Richards

CONTACT

Ron Richards, Chair, Save The Olympic Peninsula

Phone: 360.477.5367, 360.457.1787, ronaldnrichards@gmail.com

MILITARY INSTALLATIONS BILLS VIOLATE WASHINGTON STATE’S CONSTITUTION

January 17, 2018, Port Angeles, WA – Two bills being considered in the Washington State Legislature expand military control of private development and land use planning in Washington State, violating several of the most basic and important provisions of the Washington and United States Constitutions.

HB 2341, now in the House Committee on Environment, and SB 6456, a companion bill in the Senate, prohibit local governments from allowing incompatible development in the vicinity of a military installation. Any commander of any military installation operated by the United States armed services within or adjacent to Washington State is given sole authority to determine whether incompatibility exists.

The bills prioritize all military uses, whether they improve or damage the State’s economy, over any private, tax-paying, industrial, agricultural, residential or other development. They amend current legislation by:

1.      making the prohibition of incompatible developments mandatory;

2.      extending the prohibition to lands that are not adjacent to the military installation;

3.      applying the prohibition to the benefit of any military installation, no matter how small;

4.      allowing the State Department of Commerce to spend up to $25 million every two years to acquire property to eliminate an existing incompatible use, or to increase the availability of housing affordable to enlisted military personnel.

The bills imply that incompatibility exists if development “may interfere” with the installation’s ability to carry out its “current or future mission requirements” and suggest the prohibition extends as far away from the military installation as the installation’s present or future mission extends. This could result in the prohibition applying to almost any land within Washington State, whether the incompatibility arises from a current mission, or a mission proposed to begin years into the future.

By outlawing all land uses that might be incompatible with present or future missions of United States military installations, the bills accomplish an “inverse condemnation” of property, where the government takes property without compensating for it.

“If a military installation’s mission is to train helicopter crews, the bill could prohibit development anywhere along the flight path from launch to landing, depending solely on the military commander’s judgment. Where a military mission is to provide howitzer training, the prohibition could apply as far away from the installation as explosive sounds could create an incompatibility, again depending solely on the military commander’s judgment,” explained Ron Richards, Chair of Save The Olympic Peninsula.

“By handing United States military commanders control of the State’s land use powers, the bills violate Article 1, Section 18, of the Washington State Constitution that states, “The military shall be in strict subordination to civil power,” as well as violating the Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, that reserves to the States the powers not granted to the federal government or prohibited by it to the States. Sacrosanct among the powers reserved to the States is the power to adopt local zoning regulations,” Richards emphasized.

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