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Blakely Ridge, King County win UPD case

UPD case by Jeff Switzer
The legal hurdles have been passed by Blakely Ridge developers and King County following a ruling in their favor by Snohomish County Superior Court in a lawsuit brought by several grassroots organizations.
   "We're obviously really pleased," said John Adams, vice-president of Port Blakely Communities, developers of Blakely Ridge in the Novelty Hill area. "King County was upheld both times. We think that is exciting; it confirms the county's decision to approve Blakely Ridge."
   The Coalition for Public Trust and Friends of the Law, two organizations fighting the urban planned developments (UPDs) on Novelty Hill, jointly filed a lawsuit against King County on Jan. 9, precipitated by the council's approval of Blakely Ridge in December 1995.
   The lawsuit concerned issues of appearance of fairness, the zoning reclassification of the Blakely Ridge site, the alleged invalid one-acre alternative in the Blakely Ridge Final EIS, and the "loophole" provision in the Growth Management Act.
   In the suit against the county, filed in Snohomish County, CPT maintained that one or more councilmembers did not disclose the "substance" or "content" of their ex parte communications--discussions with proponents or opponents during the quasi-judicial process--nor did the council allow the opposite side a chance to rebut.
   Charges of bias and prejudgement were also included in the suit. CPT claimed the council passed the ordinance deleting the phasing policy while the hearing examiner was considering whether to recommend a deletion of the zoning condition which also called for phasing.
   CPT also maintained that the council had made up its mind to approve the zoning change before receiving the examiner's report and before the quasi-judicial period and the examiner's recommendation.
   Further alleged in the suit was that the county did not comply with the criteria to approve a zoning reclassification: that the change is in the public's interest or the conditions had changed since January 1995. CPT and FOTL continue to maintain that the one-acre alternative in the EIS is not vested.
   The final issue in the suit concerned the GMA "loophole," in which the county's comprehensive plan remains valid during the remand period, a provision CPT challenged as unconstitutional. CPT said the "loophole" meets the judicial test of an "unreasonable law" and potentially violates the separation of powers.