Articles Posted in Washington Supreme Court

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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

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Appellant Catherine Lakey and twelve other homeowners owned property that bordered a parcel owned by Puget Sound Energy, Inc. (PSE) on which there was an electrical substation. The homeowners sued PSE and the City of Kirkland after PSE constructed a new substation on PSE property. The homeowners sought review of the trial court's decision to exclude testimony of their expert under the "Frye" rule, and the court's ultimate decision to grant summary judgment on behalf of PSE. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the trial court improperly excluded the expert's testimony under the "Frye" rule but properly excluded it under the Rules of Evidence ER702. Furthermore, the Court reversed the trial court's decision with respect to their Land Use Petition Act (LUPA) claims, finding that LUPA did not apply to the homeowners' inverse condemnation claim. The Court affirmed the trial court in all other respects. View "Lakey v. Puget Sound Energy" on Justia Law

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The superior court granted Snohomish County's motion to dismiss Respondent-Cross Petitioner Scott Stafne's land use petition and complaint. The issue on appeal involved whether a landowner seeking review of a county's decision not to adopt a proposed comprehensive plan amendment must appeal to the growth management hearings board (growth board) before seeking a remedy in superior court. This case also centered on whether a party is entitled to a constitutional writ of certiorari or declaratory relief under the circumstances of this case. The Court of Appeals held that based on its conclusion that appeal to the growth board would be futile, the complaint was properly filed in superior court under the Land Use Petition Act (LUPA), chapter 36.70C of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) but affirmed the dismissal on other grounds. Both parties were granted review. The Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court, but held that decisions related to amendment of comprehensive plans must be appealed to the growth board under the procedures provided for in the Growth Management Act (GMA), chapter 36.70A RCW, and failure to do so precludes superior court review. The Court also held that a constitutional writ and declaratory relief are unavailable under the circumstances of this case. View "Stafne v. Snohomish County" on Justia Law