Most area cities choose to take the lawyering out of their Council's job description and give it to the county superior court i.e. Kirkland, Bellevue, Issaquah, Sammamish, Woodinville, Edmonds, Seattle, Everett, and Mercer Island. We should, too. Only Redmond and Bothell land use appeals remain "judged" by city councils.
After trying to participate in the review of three deforestation projects by CAMWEST, the Shauhanessy deforestation project, and Tent City review process, I agree it's time for a change. In fact, Council President Nancy McCormick described her frustration, if not agony, while presiding over the TC-4 and 172nd Ave extension appeals. The 42-lot Shauhanessy Plat/PRD drew a similar response from Nancy when an appeal to Council was remanded by Council back to the Hearing Examiner for a second Public Hearing. Shauhanassy is the longest land use review in the history of Redmond and the project still isn't built.
After thanking Ms. Allen for articulating the Shauhanessy case so well, Council President Nancy McCormick movingly stated:
"The public process may not have been violated but it was twisted. I can't keep from thinking about that couple who appeared at the Tent City public meeting and signed up to the Party of Record only to be denied on appeal to be heard.
The public needs accurate information and timeliness of an appeal, otherwise we make a mockery out of Public Hearings and caring about public involvement."
It is clear recent land use cases have demonstrated that our present public process needs fixing. The public has not been getting accurate information because their elected representatives are not allowed to represent or inform them. Conversely, staff gives full support and guidance to developers who already know the system and what questions to ask.
Councilmember Pat Vache' (and Cole, Carson, Myers) openly support the present quasi-judicial appeal process. They prefer not to give up their lawyering power in judging land-use policy. Rather, Mr. Vache' (and Mr. Myers) look at the present process as a "learning experience to get the feel for the impact of how code impacts the stakeholders". What Mr. Vache' doesn't learn about are his constituents' feelings and their understanding the project during the Review. Thus, mistakes get made (that could have been fixed in legislative appeal to council). Mr. Vache' says the Q-J process is more efficient. Shauhanssey PRD lasted years. Tent City-4 was a breath away from the State Supreme Appellate Court. Perrigo Heights. The 172nd extension, Pearce, and Tyler Creek land use actions all took valuable time from Council policy-making duties while stressing the neighborhoods and landowners on code issues. No wonder Council work has become a full-time job.
Interestingly, Mr. Vache’ voted for the CAMWEST Perrigo Heights Plat Steep Slope Exception concluding "where else are we going to put the homes"? Mr. Vache’ lives right off of NE 116th Street behind what later became Mosaic Meadows plat and sown 116th from CAMWEST'S huge Pearce PRD.
Over time, part of the issue is Council gets too close to the stakeholders and their judgment becomes affected, despite the appearance of distance and objectivity.
Part One: "Moving Redmond forward on Land Use Appeals"