Northwest NEWS

June 21, 1999

Front Page

Bear Creek development halted by State Supreme Court

by Marshall Haley, staff reporter

   A 9-0 ruling by the Washington State Supreme Court (the Court) upheld a challenge by two citizens' groups to two Bear Creek Urban Planned Developments (UPDs). The challenges were brought by Friends of the Law (Friends) and the Coalition for Public Trust (Coalition) against King County and Quadrant Corporation, owner of a 2,500-acre parcel between Woodinville and Duvall.

   The high court decision overturned a ruling by King County Superior Court Judge Marcia Pechman that was upheld by the State Appellate Court.

   Those lower courts' rulings had allowed Quadrant's application to develop Redmond Ridge (formerly known as Northridge) and Blakely Ridge as "urban islands." Those courts decided that King County's Countywide Planning Policies (CPPs) were immune to citizen challenge, because they fell within the designations of the County's Comprehensive Growth Management Plan for Urban Growth Areas (UGAs).

   The Port Blakely Tree Farm, created by former Seattle Seahawks owner Ken Behring, submitted the original petitions for the development in 1988, before the legislature created the GMA. Port Blakely sold their share of the property to Quadrant in August of 1998, effectively removing Port Blakely from the litigation.

   The Board twice ruled against the "urban island" designation in 1995 as violations of the GMA. The Board said the Bear Creek area must adhere to rural zoning designations of one dwelling per five acres, rather than one dwelling per one acre allowed within an "urban island."

   "Friends" and "Coalition" argued that the County could not contradict CPPs by granting Quadrant's development the UGA status, because that violated the GMA's statutes governing rural areas such as Bear Creek. The high court agreed that the CPPs were immune to citizen challenge, but that citizens could legally challenge the County's UGA designations for Bear Creek.

   The Court remanded the case back to the Puget Sound Growth Management Hearing Board (the Board), "for determination of whether the County has adequately complied with the Board's Order on Reconsideration by justifying the Bear Creek urban designation under terms of the GMA or by redesignating the area as a Fully Contained Community (FCC) under RCW 36.70A.350."

   The Board will hold that compliance hearing on Monday, Sept. 13, at a site to be announced. A pre-hearing conference will be held on July 22. The compliance hearing will focus on two issues:

   "The Board will determine if either of these two things was sufficient to cure all the violations of the GMA which the Board detailed in its two earlier decisions in 1995," said Friends' President Joseph Elfelt. "Since the basic facts that caused the Board to rule against that 'urban island' have not changed, it seems almost certain that the Board will rule against it for the third time. Once that happens, those projects are gone for good. The zoning on the four-square-mile site will then revert to the same zoning as the surrounding area, one home per five acres."

   The Supreme Court cited the following laws as bases for their decision:

   "UGAs are regions within which urban growth is encouraged and outside of which growth can only occur if it is not urban in nature [RCW 36.70A.110(1)].

   "CPPs are written policy statements created by county municipalities, used 'solely for establishing a county-wide framework from which county and city comprehensive plans are developed' [RCW 36.70A.210(1)]. CPPs ensure that city and county comprehensive plans are consistent with one another, regarding issues of regional significance. Thus, CPPs must address policies for designation of UGAs and policies providing for urban services, transportation, housing, and economic development [RCW 36.70A.210(6)].

   "The GMA expressly provides for 'early and continuous public participation in the development and amendment of comprehensive land use plans,' [RCW 36.70A.140]. Citizens who attend and participate in the comprehensive plan hearings have standing to challenge provisions later adopted in a county's comprehensive plan.

   "However, the GMA does not provide for public challenge to CPPs. Only cities or the governor may appeal a CPP to the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board; citizens may not appeal [RCW 36.70A.210(6)]."