February 3, 2015

Rock, Paper, Scissors?


Division II of the Washington Court of Appeals ruled today that Whatcom County should not be compelled to adopt a Comprehensive Plan amendment allowing for the expansion of a mineral resource zone to an adjacent parcel, even if staff and the planning commission concur that all the criteria are met.  Concrete Nor’West applied for a plan amendment to mineral resource land from forest to further the expansion of their mine.  Despite meeting all of the criteria in staff’s and the planning commission’s view, the Board of County Council failed to get a majority with three in support, three opposed for water quality and impacts, and one abstention.  The Western Washington Growth Management Hearing Board held that nothing in the goals or policies of the Comprehensive Plan compelled a re-designation. Division II agreed with the Hearings Board, essentially affirming the ability under the Comprehensive Plan for the County Council to weigh other factors.


The take away is what most land use attorneys already know: that Comprehensive Plan amendments are subject to the whim of politics.  Even the best crafted argument that meets all of the criteria can fail to satisfy the decision makers.  There are things that can increase the likelihood of success, but sometimes it is just like playing rock, paper, scissors.   


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