These two recent blog posts from local community journalists tell the story as it stands as of March 1 2016:
The first, from Latte Republic, found here. (Posted Feb 12-13 2016)
Snohomish Superior Court Judge Okrent Reverses Whatcom County's Denial of Lincoln Park Retirement Center Conditional Use Permit
Back in November of 2015, I posted an article that discussed Whatcom County's denial of Lincoln Park Retirement Center's Conditional Use Permit. The project 's attorney, Charlie Klinge of Stephens and Klinge LLP, located in Bellevue, Washington, filed a timely appeal of the County's decision in Snohomish County Superior Court. On February 9, 2016, Judge Okrent rendered an opinion REVERSING Whatcom County's Decision and REMANDING Whatcom County to modify the Conditional Use Permit so it can be approved post haste.
Summary of Case: The Plaintiffs Julie Carney and Michael E. Reid filed a lawsuit to challenge Defendant Whatcom County’s denial of a Conditional Use Permit application for the Lincoln Park Retirement Home Center. The crux of the matter is whether or not Whatcom County can approve a sewer extension for a tract of land that is predominately in a short term planning area.
Click here to read the official February 9, 2016 Order signed by Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Richard T. Okrent. Or continue reading the article below for a summary of the order's findings.
In the order, Judge Richard T. Okrent reverses Whatcom County's denial of the Conditional Use Permit for the Lincoln Park Retirement Center. Here is the court's decision, which appears on page 8:
19. Having reviewed all of the material, and given the fact that the properly owners had a vested right and that the Code has changed with respect to the Blaine Urban Growth Area, the Court will grant the LUPA petition and adopt the following conclusions:
The Whatcom County Code 20.84.220(l) does not incorporate the policies of Whatcom County's Comprehensive Plan, and said Code provision requires only general conformance with the Comprehensive Plan, not strict adherence. Former Comprehensive Plan Policy 2S-2 has no regulatory effect on its own and can only be implemented through development regulations and was not implemented by the County prior to Petitioners' CUP application.
The only basis for denial of the CUP is noncompliance with Policy 2S-2 and its statement that sewer shall not be extended outside the Short Term
Planning Area. Since that Policy has no independent affect, there is no remaining basis for the denial and a remand is necessary so the County can
make the modifications required to approve Plaintiffs' Condition Use Permit Application.
For the foregoing reasons, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED
a. Petitioners' Land Use Petition is GRANTED.
b. The Decision of the Hearing Examiner, and the Decision of the County Council incorporating that Decision are REVERSED
c. The matter is REMANDED to Whatcom County for modifications of its decision that result in approval of Plaintiffs/Petitioners' Conditional
Use Permit Application.
Updated 2/13/16: It is unfortunate that the project owners were put through this ordeal by the County. After all, how many proposed projects in Whatcom County encounter zero opposition by our diverse citizenry? I join John Servais, Editor of Northwest Citizen, to ask readers to contact the Whatcom County Council members to urge them not to file an appeal of Judge Okrent's decision. It would be a waste of taxpayer dollars and we have many other deserving projects that will make better use of our limited funds.
And here's the second one, posted same day, that offers one veteran observer's take on the reason for the county's denial of our application:
County Planning Slapped By Court John Servais Feb 12 2016
Sometimes a building project fits all the zoning and environmental requirements but the city or county planners just do not like it. As people with college degrees in planning, it is not what they think should be built at that particular location. They just don't like it. And so they find some flimsey rule to deny the project. And the proponent can drop their plans or risk a lot of money by taking the city or county to court.
Elisabeth Britt's Latte Republic website has been following just such a situation unfolding up between Blaine and Birch Bay. The county denied a permit for building the Lincoln Park Retirement Center - even though it fit perfectly all the zoning requirements. Problem was the county government planners had apparently not envisioned such a use for that land and did not want a retirement home out on Lincoln Road. So they found some trivial technicallity to deny it. The developer filed a suit. The court has ruled against the county and instructed the permit be granted.
Elisabeth has the story and links to the websites and to her earlier story. What I want to add is we should tell our county council representative to vote to prevent the county from appealing the decision. Governments hate to lose and they use our tax dollars to fight lawsuits by individuals. They will blow our money out the window on lawsuits that are absurd.
Nothing in the Bellingham Herald on this - and probably won't be. You need citizen journalism these days. The Latte Republic is one of our better citizen journalism sites. Link to this post here.
Lincoln Park Senior Community Moves Ahead!
LIKE WE'VE BEEN SAYING, THE COUNTY'S ACTION WAS ILLEGAL!
WE WON! At the hearing held in Snohomish County Superior Court January 12, Judge Richard T. Okrent granted our petition and ordered the county to proceed with the permit process. Essentially Judge Okrent found in our favor on all the main points our attorney made in his arguments. For details, scroll to the two blog posts lower down on this page.
UPDATE, MORE GOOD NEWS: The county decided NOT to appeal the court's decision!
BUT IT'S NOT OVER: The county could still impose unreasonable conditions upon the permit, or drag the process out in many other ways. We'll keep you posted!
MEANWHILE, MANY THANKS FOR ALL THE COMMUNITY SUPPORT!
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COUNTY CONTACT INFO:
Executive Jack Louws: Email: JLouws@co.whatcom.wa.us Phone: 360676 6717
Council Member Barbara Brenner: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 360-384-2762
Council Member Rud Browne: Email: email@example.com Phone: 360-820-9494
Council Member Barry Buchanan: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 360-224-4330
Council Member Pete Kremen: Email: email@example.com Phone: 360-734-3802
Council Member Ken Mann: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 360-483-6020
Council Member Satpal Sidhu: Email: SSidhu@co.whatcom.wa.us Phone: 360-305-4948
Council Member Carl Weimer: Email: email@example.com Phone: 360-384-5919