Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use

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Two companies applied for permits to expand their oil terminals on Grays Harbor. The issue here this case presented was whether the Ocean Resources Management Act (ORMA), applied to these expansion projects. The Shoreline Hearings Board (Board) and the Court of Appeals held that ORMA did not apply to these projects based on limited definitions in the Department of Ecology's (DOE) ORMA implementation regulations. The parties also contested whether these projects qualify as "ocean uses" or "transportation" under DOE's regulations. The Washington Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeals’ interpretation improperly restricted ORMA, which was enacted to broadly protect against the environmental dangers of oil and other fossil fuels. The Supreme Court also held that these projects qualified as both ocean uses and transportation. And though not discussed by the parties or the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court found these projects qualified as "coastal uses" under DOE's regulations. Accordingly, it reversed the Court of Appeals and remanded for further review under ORMA's provisions. View "Quinault Indian Nation v. City of Hoquiam" on Justia Law

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The Washington Supreme Court granted review of a challenge to the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board's decision on the validity of Whatcom County's comprehensive plan and zoning code under the state Growth Management Act (GMA). The County argued that the Board's conclusions were based on an erroneous interpretation of the law, and asked the Supreme Court to rule that the County's comprehensive plan protected the quality and availability of water as required by the Act. After review, the Supreme Court rejected the County's arguments, finding that the plan did not satisfy the GMA requirement to protect water availability, and that the remaining arguments made were unavailing. The Court reversed the Court of Appeals in part and remanded this case back to the Board for further proceedings. View "Whatcom County v. W. Wash. Growth Mgmt. Hr'gs Bd." on Justia Law

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Under the Washington State Medical Use of Cannabis Act (MUCA), chapter 69.51A RCW, qualifying patients could participate in "collective gardens" to pool resources and grow medical marijuana for their own use. However, MUCA granted cities and towns the power to zone the "production, processing, or dispensing" of medical marijuana. Given this law, the city of Kent enacted a zoning ordinance that prohibited collective gardens within its city limits. The issue for the Supreme Court's review centered on whether MUCA preempted the Ordinance. The Court held that it did not and affirm the Court of Appeals: the Ordinance was a valid exercise of the city of Kent's zoning authority recognized in RCW 69.51A.l40(1) because the Ordinance merely regulated land use activity. View "Cannabis Action Council v. City of Kent" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review centered on whether the City of Bothell assumed responsibility for maintaining a drainage pipe installed in a residential subdivision in Snohomish County. The subdivision, Crystal Ridge, was developed from two residential plats that the County approved in 1997. The area was incorporated into the City in 1992. One of the plats contained a drainage easement within a tract owned by the Crystal Ridge Homeowners Association. The plat dedicated the drainage easement to the County. The City argued that the disputed drainage pipe was outside the scope of the drainage easement that the City inherited from Snohomish County. After review, the Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the only reasonable interpretation of the Crystal Ridge plat is that Snohomish County (and therefore the City) assumed responsibility for maintaining the drainage pipe. The Court therefore affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of respondents. View "Crystal Ridge Homeowners Ass'n v. City of Bothell" on Justia Law

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ln consolidated cases, petitioners brought an untimely challenge to San Juan County's issuance of a garage-addition building permit. Petitioners did not receive notice of the permit application and grant until the administrative appeals period had expired. Thus, petitioners claim that the Washington Supreme Court's interpretation of the Land Use Petition Act (LUPA), chapter 36.70C RCW, required them to appeal a decision without actual or constructive notice of it. Acknowledging a strong public policy supporting administrative deadlines, the Supreme Court found: (1) petitioners were required to exhaust available administrative remedies to obtain a land use decision; (2) there were no equitable exceptions to the exhaustion requirement; (3) the plain language of LUPA says as much; and (4) there was no due process violation because petitioner had no constitutionally protected property interest in the denial of his neighbor's land-use permit. View "Durland v. San Juan County" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Supreme Court in this case centered on whether the "vested rights doctrine" applied to permit applications filed under plans and regulations that were later found to be noncompliant with the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). In 2006, BSRE Point Wells LP asked Snohomish County to amend its comprehensive plan and zoning regulations to allow for a mixed use/urban center designation and redevelopment of the Point Wells site. BSRE wanted to redevelop the property by adding over 3,000 housing units and over 100,000 square feet of commercial and retail space. The petitioners, Town of Woodway and Save Richmond Beach Inc., opposed the project. They argued that the area lacked the infrastructure needed to support an urban center, namely sufficient roads and public transit. These nearby communities did not want to "bear the burden of providing urban services to the site." Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded the vested rights doctrine did apply to the permit applications filed in this case: local land use plans and development regulations enacted under the Growth Management Act (GMA), chapter 36.70A RCW, are presumed valid upon adoption. Should a valid plan or regulation later be found to violate SEPA, the exclusive remedies provided by the GMA affect only future applications for development-not development rights that have already vested. In this case, BSRE Point Wells LP (BSRE) submitted complete applications for development permits before the local land use ordinances were found to be noncompliant with SEPA. BSRE's rights vested when it submitted its applications. A later finding of noncompliance did not affect BSRE's already vested rights. View "Town of Woodway v. Snohomish County" on Justia Law

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Homer Gibson applied to Kittitas County for a conditional use permit (CUP) that would allow him to conduct rock crushing and other gravel and cement production related activities on his agricultural-zoned property. Kittitas gave notice that it would hold a public hearing on the CUP. Ellensburg Cement Products, Inc. objected to the CUP application and appealed Kittitas's SEPA Determination of Non-Significance (DNS) under the county's administrative appeal procedures. Kittitas first considered the SEPA appeal in a "closed record" hearing, and upheld the DNS. It then held an "open record" public hearing on the CUP, and granted Gibson's application over Ellensburg Cement's objections. Ellensburg Cement appealed both decisions to the superior court, which affirmed, and then to the Court of Appeals, which reversed. The Court of Appeals held that Kittitas was statutorily required to hold an "open record hearing" on the appeal of the SEP A DNS and that rock crushing was not a permissible conditional use under Kittitas's relevant zoning regulations. After its review, the Supreme Court found no error with the appellate court's decision and affirmed. View "Ellensburg Cement Prods., Inc. v. Kittitas County" on Justia Law

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Chiwawa Communities Association appealed the trial court's grant of summary judgment to owners of homes in the Chiwawa River Pines community. Respondents Ross and Cindy Wilkinson asked the trial court to invalidate a 2011 amendment to the community covenants prohibiting rental of their homes for less than 30 days. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court was whether short-term vacation rentals conflicted with the covenants in place prior to 2011, if the Association validly amended the covenants to prohibit them, and if the trial court erred by striking portions of the offered evidence. Upon review, the Court concluded that short-term rentals did not violate the covenants barring commercial use of the property or restricting lots to single-family residential use. Furthermore, the Court held the Association exceeded its power to amend the covenants when it prohibited short-term vacation rentals in 2011, and the trial court did not err by granting in part motions brought by the Wilkinsons to strike evidence. View "Wilkinson v. Chiwawa Cmtys. Ass'n" on Justia Law

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After years of negotiation and lawsuits, Snohomish County agreed to let King County build a sewage treatment plant in south Snohomish County. As part of the settlement, King County agreed to provide a substantial mitigation package for the local Snohomish County community near the plant. The cost of the mitigation was included in the capital cost of the plant. Two local utility districts that contract with King County for sewage treatment filed suit, arguing that the mitigation package was excessive, among many other claims. The trial judge largely rejected the districts' claims. After careful consideration of the record, the Supreme Court largely affirmed. View "Cedar River Water & Sewer Dist. v. King County" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Supreme Court in this case involved the validity of an amended rule from the Department of Ecology that reserved water from the Skagit River system for future year-round out-of-stream uses, despite the fact that in times of low stream flows these uses would impair established minimum in-stream flows necessary for fish, wildlife, recreation, navigation, scenic and aesthetic values. The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community (Tribe) sued, challenging the validity of Ecology's amended rule reserving the water. The trial court upheld the amended rule and dismissed the Tribe's petition. After its review, the Supreme Court concluded that Ecology erroneously interpreted the statutory exception as broad authority to reallocate water for new beneficial uses when the requirements for appropriating water for these uses otherwise cannot be met. "The exception is very narrow, however, and requires extraordinary circumstances before the minimum flow water right can be impaired." Because the amended rule exceeded Ecology's authority under the statute, the amended rule reserving the water was invalid under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). View "Swinomish Indian Tribal Comm'y v. Dep't of Ecology" on Justia Law