Run! I did and if you want any semblance of a “rural” lifestyle, you will too. The King County vision of a “rural economy” can be summed up in two words: forestry and agriculture. Their vision for the “Rural Area” is McMansions. According to the 2002 US agricultural census there were 450 farms in King County that made a profit that averaged $99,949. There were 176 farms that grossed $50,000 or more. There were 1,098 farms that operated at an average net loss of $14,305. At the very most, there might be 100 farmers making a living in King County. Forestry statistics are harder to find. In talking with people involved in that industry for many years it would seem that the only ones making any money in forestry are Weyerhauser and its peers. For the sake of analysis let’s pretend that there are 50 people making a living growing forest trees. So the entire economy of rural King County, all 130,000 of us, is to be based on 150 families and the handful of businesses that support them. No wait, that is wrong. We have to add in the 1,098 families that pay money earned elsewhere to support their ag hobby. There are only three acceptable uses for any property in rural King County: ag, forestry, or residential. Given the numbers above, which do you think will dominate? As “smart growth” crams more density into the 39 cities of King County we will see that core of 1,098 “gentlemen farmers” grow exponentially. The rich have always had at least two residences; one in the city and one in the “country”. Rural King County with its five-acre-minimum lots is poised perfectly for McMansion country homes. As government regulation keeps the land prices down by limiting density and uses, evermore city folks will be able to buy their country estate. Good old country boys like yours truly that need to do something productive on the land to afford more than a quarter acre will have to move elsewhere. True country folks tend to be a little too “rustic” for the gentry. “Rustic” is the most used synonym for “rural” in the six dictionaries I checked, by the way. It is a little hard to achieve rustic when you are subject to building regulations more restrictive than those in the cities, but that is by design. “The Puget Lowland was settled in the main by a rather select emigration from the North Central States, most of it biologically and socially equipped for success in various economic activities. Along with this predominant class of immigrant, however, were the usual number of socially less fitted types. Considering the recency of settlement in western Washington, there has been an interesting ecological segregation of types in the area. The socially superior peoples have settled in the cities and towns, or on the alluvial farm lands of the Basin, while the socially inferior have gravitated to the foothill lands of marginal value.” (White and Renner, Human Geography: An Ecological Study of Society, Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., New York, NY, 1948, p. 378.) Country has always been the place where those of us “socially inferior” people who actually like rustic have lived, but it is time for us to go. The space we occupy will be filled with houses. That was inevitable. The only question was whether it would be filled with “rustic” affordable housing for the middle and lower classes or with urban quality McMansions where the “socially superior” peoples of the cities spend their weekends. The decision for the latter was made some time ago. Any city that grows always consumes the countryside around it. The socially inferior country folk are always forced further out. Whether they are paid anything for their land depends on the largess of those in power. Pretending to encourage a “rural economy” while doing everything possible to restrict a real economy in the rural area is typical of those currently in power. It may be good for the conscious, but it doesn’t do much for the country folk.
December 21, 2009