July 18, 2023

Land Use, Property Rights and Land Development: New 2023 Washington case law that could impact you! (Part One)


 Jordan Ramis Shareholder Jamie Howsley recently summarized these cases, which were presented at the June 2023 Building Industry Association of Washington Legal Committee meeting. Here are Jamie’s highlights in this multi-part series.

Appeal against proposed Middle Housing rule denied

City of Olympia v. Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board et al June 26, 2023 Division I Published

The Olympians for Smart Development and Livable Neighborhoods, arguing in favor of maintaining neighborhood appeal without significantly increasing density, appealed a decision reversing a Superior Court ruling reversing a Growth Board (“GMHB”) that struck down Olympia’s middle housing proposal. Middle housing generally eliminates single-family zones, so that people can build duplexes, fourplexes, and townhomes instead. While townhouses cost less to build, most cities have strict limitations where these can be built.

While the appeal was pending at the GMHB the legislative passed RCW 36.70A.600(3) and (4), which precludes administrative and judicial review of actions by a City to increase density. The City of Olympia filed a motion with the GMHB to dismiss the appeal and the GMHB denied the motion reasoning that the law was not clear to apply retroactively. The Court of Appeals reversed and agreeing with the Superior Court that the new legislation should have made the GMHB dismiss the appeal.


Court rules in favor of condemnation for storm drainage and salmon habitat

City of Sammamish v. Titcomb, 525 P. 3d 973 (March 13, 2003). Division I

The City of Sammamish (“City”) began condemnation to acquire property in a creek. The City wanted to improve storm drainage and salmon habitat, including removing barriers. What is interesting about this creek is that it flowed under a house where a daylit fish ladder was integrated into the foundation. The City wanted to relocate the creek away from the house.

The homeowners challenged the condemnation proclaiming the City did not have authority to condemn for the purpose of helping the fish. The Court disagreed with the homeowners holding that improving stormwater facilities area valid purpose. The fact that the City’s project also provided fish habitat benefits did not change the City’s authority to condemn property for stormwater improvements.

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