May 11, 1998

Opinion

Rules need to be changed

  I have recently gone through an appeal to the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB) of King County procedures/lack of effective notice for several environmental overlays adopted in 1997-adopted separately from the county's annual comprehensive plan (complan) amendment process where it belonged. One of the issues involved repeal of pre-GMA community plans tree retention requirements. County notices recommended repeal because Title 21A, adopted under GMA procedures, superseded community plan requirements for tree coverage and native vegetation retention. The last date for public testimony on all of the environmental overlay issues was published as May 27, 1997.
  
   On June 16, 1997 Councilman Brian Derdowski introduced amendments that created tree-retention overlays that could be applied countywide, and the public hearing was held that same day. Then the overlays were applied to the Northshore and Soos Creek planning areas, where they had been originated in pre-GMA community plans. Not one affected landowner testified, including myself, because we knew nothing of what Mr. Derdowski was doing; i.e., complete lack of notice. (The amendments are significant and will drive up development costs as builders try to position apartments and commercial structures around existing trees and clumps of trees.)
  
   The GMHB-in my mind bowing to the enormous political clout of King County-supported King County and denied my appeal petition. However, the decision's ending statement said "NOTICE: This order constitutes a final order as specified by RCW 336.70A.300 unless a party files a motion for reconsideration pursuant to WAC 242-02-832." I saw serious flaws in the GMHB decision and filed a motion for reconsideration on March 27. (I worked really hard and spent a lot of time on that motion.) Yesterday I called to see when I might expect a response. The answer was never. The GMHB chose not to respond. It seems that no response means the decision stands.
  
   If current rules allow a petitioner to be strung out awaiting a response that will never come, those rules should be changed, if only to force the hearings boards to add to their notices that no response means no change. However, it should be required that the hearings boards write saying "We stand by our original decision." The shared waters/shared stewardship concepts promulgated by the Washington State/British Columbia task force will significantly affect shoreline use in Puget Sound and the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Recommendations for permitting single-family homes within 200' of high water would allow use of only 30% of an owner's waterfront, plus required mitigation for use of that 30%. I'm following that process, as should those working on Shoreline Management Act issues.
   Maxine Keesling, Woodinville