Articles Posted in Washington Supreme Court

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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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After years of negotiation and lawsuits, Snohomish County agreed to let King County build a sewage treatment plant in south Snohomish County. As part of the settlement, King County agreed to provide a substantial mitigation package for the local Snohomish County community near the plant. The cost of the mitigation was included in the capital cost of the plant. Two local utility districts that contract with King County for sewage treatment filed suit, arguing that the mitigation package was excessive, among many other claims. The trial judge largely rejected the districts' claims. After careful consideration of the record, the Supreme Court largely affirmed. View "Cedar River Water & Sewer Dist. v. King County" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Supreme Court in this case involved the validity of an amended rule from the Department of Ecology that reserved water from the Skagit River system for future year-round out-of-stream uses, despite the fact that in times of low stream flows these uses would impair established minimum in-stream flows necessary for fish, wildlife, recreation, navigation, scenic and aesthetic values. The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community (Tribe) sued, challenging the validity of Ecology's amended rule reserving the water. The trial court upheld the amended rule and dismissed the Tribe's petition. After its review, the Supreme Court concluded that Ecology erroneously interpreted the statutory exception as broad authority to reallocate water for new beneficial uses when the requirements for appropriating water for these uses otherwise cannot be met. "The exception is very narrow, however, and requires extraordinary circumstances before the minimum flow water right can be impaired." Because the amended rule exceeded Ecology's authority under the statute, the amended rule reserving the water was invalid under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). View "Swinomish Indian Tribal Comm'y v. Dep't of Ecology" on Justia Law

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Applicants challenged a Department of Development and Environmental Services order declaring the use of the property at issue here was not compliant with King County zoning ordinances. The assertion was that the use was established before the ordinances were revised and characterized as non-conforming. The hearing examiner found for the landowner (and county) on all relevant issues, but the superior court reversed. The appellate court reversed the superior court, and the Supreme Court reversed the appellate court. The Supreme Court held that the landowner's use was not established within the meaning of the county code. View "King County Dep't of Dev. & Envtl. Servs. v. King County" on Justia Law

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In 2007, Respondents John Karpinski, Clark County Natural Resources Council and Futurewise (challengers) filed a petition with the Growth Management Hearings Board alleging Clark County was not in compliance with the Growth Management Act (GMA). The Challengers specifically argued that under the Act's requirements, the various lands affected by a 2007 local zoning ordinance designated as agricultural land of long-term commercial significance (ALLTCS) could not be designated as an urban growth area (UGA) by the ordinance. The cities of Camas and Ridgefield began proceedings to annex certain parcels of the disputed lands designated UGA by the 2007 ordinance. The Challengers did not contest the annexations, nor did any party bring the annexation proceedings to the attention of the Board. The Board ultimately found that Clark County was not in compliance with the GMA, specifically finding that certain land designations from the 2007 ordinance were clearly erroneous, including designation of the annexed lands as UGA. Multiple parties were permitted to intervene, and the Board's decision was appealed. The superior court entered an order that resolved various claims on appeal, including claims related to the annexed lands. The court reversed the Board's finding that Clark County's designation of a portion of the annexed lands as UGA was erroneous. The Challengers thereafter appealed the superior court's order. The ultimate issue before the Supreme Court in this case was one of appellate procedure: whether the court of appeals erred by reviewing separate and district claims that had been resolved but were not actually raised on appeal. THe parties did not challenge the disposition of those claims, thus those claims were finally adjudicated. However, the appellate court addressed the abandoned claims sua sponte and reversed the lower court's unchallenged rulings. The Supreme Court vacated the appellate court's opinion reversing the superior court's unchallenged rulings. View "Clark County v. W. Wash. Growth Mgmt. Hearings Review Bd." on Justia Law