Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use

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Between 1853 and 1995, the Port Gamble Bay facility in Kitsap County, Washington operated as a sawmill and forest products manufacturing facility by Pope & Talbot and its corporate predecessors. Close to four decades after Puget Mill Co., predecessor to Pope & Talbot, began operating the sawmill, the legislature authorized the disposal of certain occupied state-owned aquatic lands, including the tidal lands within Port Gamble Bay. The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued the first lease for Pope & Talbot's use of the Port Gamble Bay submerged lands in 1974. In 1985, Pope & Talbot transferred 71,363 acres of its timberlands, timber, land development, and resort businesses in the State of Washington to Pope Resources, LP, which in turn leased the mill area to Pope & Talbot. Pope & Talbot ceased mill operations in 1995. Pope sought to develop their Port Gamble holdings for a large, high-density community with a marina. However, the Port Gamble site was contaminated, in part from the operation of sawmill buildings to saw logs for lumber, operation of chip barge loading facilities and a log-transfer facility, particulate sawmill emissions from wood and wood waste burning, in-water log rafting and storage, and creosote treated pilings placed throughout the bay to facilitate storage and transport of logs and wood products. After entering into a consent decree with the Washington Department of Ecology in 2013 for remediation of portions of the site exposed to hazardous substances, Pope/OPG filed a complaint in 2014 seeking a declaration that DNR was liable for natural resources damages and remedial costs, and for contribution of costs. The Superior Court granted summary judgment in favor of DNR in 2016. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that DNR was an "owner or operator" with potential liability under the Washington Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA). DNR appealed, and the Washington Supreme Court reversed, finding DNR was neither an "owner" nor an "operator" of the Port Gamble Bay facility for purposes of MTCA. View "Pope Res., LP v. Dep't of Nat. Res." on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court’s review centered on whether a city council's restrictive zoning decision was judicially reviewable under chapter 36.70C RCW, the Land Use Petition Act (LUPA), where the ordinance targeted a single property with a sole owner and was not an amendment to the city's comprehensive plan. Because such a land use decision was a site-specific rezone and therefore reviewable under LUPA, the Court reversed and remanded to the Court of Appeals to proceed on the merits of the city's appeal of the superior court's decision and for other proceedings. View "Schnitzer W., LLC v. City of Puyallup" on Justia Law

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The University of Washington (UW) owned property in City of Seattle but contended the City’s “Landmark Preservation Ordinance” (LPO) could not apply to any of the University’s property. UW wanted to demolish a building on its Seattle campus that was nominatd for potential landmark designation pursuant to the LPO. The City disagreed that the ordinance did not apply. UW filed a declaratory judgment action asking for a judicial determination that the LPO did not apply to any of UW’s property as a matter of law. The Washington Supreme Court determined all of UW' s arguments either failed as a matter of law or could not be decided in the first instance by a state court of general jurisdiction. Therefore, the Court reversed the trial court and remanded for entry of summary judgment in favor of the City. View "Univ. of Wash. v. City of Seattle" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Chelan Basin Conservancy (Conservancy) sought the removal of six acres of fill material that respondent GBI Holding Co. added to its property in 1961 to keep the formerly dry property permanently above the artificially raised seasonal water fluctuations of Lake Chelan. At issue was whether the State consented to the fill's impairment of that right and, if so, whether such consent violated the public trust doctrine. After review, the Washington Supreme Court found the Court of Appeals correctly concluded that the legislature consented to the fill's impairment of navigable waters under RCW 90.58.270 (the Savings Clause), but the Court of Appeals prematurely concluded such consent did not violate the public trust doctrine. Because the trial court never reached the highly factual public trust issue, the Court reversed and remanded to the trial court to determine in the first instance whether RCW 90.58.270 violated the public trust doctrine. View "Chelan Basin Conservancy v. GBI Holding Co." on Justia Law

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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