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Sanest Solution of All

On the surface, developer Jan Anton’s proposal to require environmental impact studies on land-use initiatives has some appeal.

Anton’s stated goal of bringing some sanity to the initiative process is one we can’t argue with. November’s ballot, with four major growth-control initiatives--all of which lost--was, indeed, legislative insanity.

And we agree that one of the problems of land-use planning by initiative is that it bypasses the analysis and scrutiny of professional planners. An environmental impact study before the petitions are circulated might make for sounder initiatives.

But the negatives of Anton’s proposal outweigh the positives.

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His proposal would require the group sponsoring a land-use initiative to pay for the environmental impact study. This burden could be prohibitive for shoestring groups such as Citizens for Limited Growth, which spent about $225,000 on two of the measures on November’s ballot. In contrast, the building industry spent $2.4 million defeating the measures.

But even if citizens’ groups could afford the cost, we doubt that the studies would add much sanity to the process.

Voters should not be expected to wade through and evaluate the complexities of planning terminology. An environmental analysis would just add to an already weighty ballot and would probably exacerbate voter confusion.

Land-use planning should be done by our elected officials, with the assistance of their professional planning staffs. Intelligent planning that protects the environment and assures adequate public facilities should obviate the need for land-use legislation by initiative. And that would be the sanest solution of all.

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