The End For Appeals & Mediation

Brynn Grimley writes:

I am happy to start this blog post by saying, I will no longer bore you with my writing. Oh wait, I should clarify that by adding: with my writing about county code and if the commissioners should remove themselves from the land use appeals process and add mediation.

Commissioners voted Monday night 2-1, with Charlotte Garrido dissenting, to remove themselves from the land use appeals process. The vote also authorizes the requirement that mediation be offered during certain hearing examiner appeals, in an effort to reach a compromise before spending the time and money to appeal.

I’ll have a story about this on the Web later today, but I’ll give you the gist here.

Commissioner Steve Bauer was in favor of the removal for a number of reasons. Commissioner Garrido felt it was important to keep the board in the process, but amend the process so it was clear to the public what the board’s role was when hearing appeals. Commissioner Josh Brown appeared to be leaning along the same lines as Garrido initially, but ended his deliberations by saying he had to go with the amendment to remove the board because he felt the other amendment would add more responsibility (i.e. time) to county planning staff that are already pressed for time.

The ordinance that was approved will take effect immediately, and will include a mediation step (that the hearing examiner can require).

Bauer’s quotes to support his choice include:

“We got some pretty compelling information on the amount of staff time these appeals take currently. It’s a huge amount of time. Hundreds of hours.”

“I think we create the expectation in the current hearing process that we can change things even if the project meets code. Our job is to enforce the code, not to talk about if we like the project or not.”

Commissioner Garrido said: “I believe that part of the problem is we have not been clear enough about what we can do and cannot do in the appeals process.”

One way the board would have done that under the ordinance she supported would have been to hold land use appeal hearings on a separate day, making it clear the board would be acting in a judicial role, and not legislative.

Brown said he supported the ordinance that would remove them from the process, but wants to revisit the decision in a year to see if it was the right choice. He said he’d be the first to admit it needs to be changed if it doesn’t work. He also wants reports on the effectiveness of the mediation, and whether to continue it based on its results.

After the vote the board opened the meeting for public comment (like they do every meeting), and two people said they were disappointed with the board’s choice. One man said he felt the board was “shirking its judicial responsibility” by removing itself; the second speaker agreed saying he felt the board was sending a message to the citizens that the commissioners don’t want to hear how land use/development is affecting the community.

County planning commissioner Jim Sommerhauser commented in response and said he believes the board’s decision actually made commissioners more accessible to the public. Now they can discuss project applications with concerned parties without fear the application could be appealed to them. Commissioners previously had to be cautious about the applications they discussed with the public just in case a project was appealed, because if appealed they act as judges and need to be impartial.

To wrap up, it looks like you’ve got at least a year before you read me writing about mediation and appeals on this blog again. (Fingers crossed!).

To read previous stories on mediation, click here, then within this story click the hyperlink to access other stories.

8 thoughts on “The End For Appeals & Mediation

  1. Hi-
    I was at the meeting last night and I heard the vote of the Commissioners to stop hearing FEIS appeals.
    They must have already decided to follow this course of action, or inaction, depending on who you ask last week.
    Last Monday, April 5, we, the Concerned Citizens of Chico Creek Water Basin, filed an appeal with the Board after the Hearing Examiner denied our appeal on the UTF FEIS and CUP.
    I followed written direction on the countys’ appeal form and paid the $590 fee.
    Tuesday evening, April 6th, we were contacted by the Prosecutors’ office and told we would have to file the FEIS appeal in Kitsap County Superior Court by Monday, April 12. The Board was not going to hear our FEIS appeal, but would hear the CUP.
    We had three working days to contact an attorney and file. On Monday, April 12, three hours before the Board voted not to hear FEIS appeals in the future, I filed the FEIS appeal with the Court. We had to pay and additional $230 filing.
    I am confused. It seems the county forced us to violate county code in the process of filing an appeal to the Board of Commissioners.
    Why was our citizens group treated differently than any other group that had filed an appeal before the Commissioners.
    Commissioner Josh Brown amended the vote to try the “new mediation for a year.”
    So, if this new process does not work, are the Commissioners going to change back to the code that is in place now? The county code they say is not in line with state law.
    Just wondering.

  2. Thanks Jack for your questions.

    I think I know why this happened, but have asked someone from DCD to answer your questions, so that the information I give you is correct.

    Once I get a response via email I’ll copy and paste the answer here so you can see why this happened.

    My understanding though is that your circumstances aren’t a direct result of the vote taken Monday night. But in the course of looking at this new appeal process, it was pointed out that the way they were hearing SEPA and EIS appeals was violating SEPA rules. Those rules state only one county agency can hear an appeal on a SEPA or EIS, (so in your case the hearing examiner), and if it’s appealed again it must go to the next agency (in your case Superior Court).

    But like I said, I hope to have an answer from DCD planners who know the law much better than me.

    — Brynn

  3. Hi-
    I look forward to hearing a response. I realize that last nights vote did not effect our appeal since the appeal was filed with them a week before they voted.
    I guess with all the current distrust for Public Officials, we were concerned that for the first time the Board would not hear a Sepa appeal. We were not afforded any opportunity for mediation which in fact may work for the taxpayers.
    The county’s procedual change in mid-stream has put an additional financial burden on us. If we do not agree with the Boards decision on the CUP, then we have to file another court action.

    Thanks for checking on this

  4. Nope, no response via email. I’m not in the office yet today, but will see if I have a voicemail response when I get in. (They never called me back on Tuesday).

    Don’t worry, I’m still trying to find the answer for you.


  5. Hi Jack,

    I’m sure you’ve already read the story, since environmental reporter Chris Dunagan interviewed you for it, but here’s a link to the story he wrote today that kind of answers your question. (Unfortunately it doesn’t really answer your question because right now it sounds like the county doesn’t know how it will handle this policy change).

    Here’s the link:

    Sorry I wasn’t able to get a better response to your question, I never did get a call back from the county yesterday.

    — Brynn

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