September 18, 2014

Washington Shoreline Projects Just Got Riskier


The Washington Court of Appeals recently decided that Shoreline Development Permits, required for development projects along the Columbia River and most other waterfronts, do not enjoy the same protection against changing regulations as subdivisions. A developer applied for approval of a mixed use project with 143 residential units consistent with the zoning, where a small portion of the site is waterfront. Neighbors opposed the density. The City of Kirkland got cold feet, imposed a moratorium on all development in the small mixed-use zone, and refused to accept a building permit application because the shoreline development permit had not yet been issued. Then the city downzoned the property so the site could only yield 60 units.

The developer sued, arguing that the project must be measured against the zoning in effect when the Shoreline Development Permit was first submitted. The Court ruled that the zoning in effect when a building permit application is submitted is what counts. So now Washington developers, who often spend years to purchase and entitle waterfront sites, can have the rug pulled out from underneath them even after they have full land use approvals, up until the time when their building permit applications are complete.

No word yet on a potential appeal. Stay tuned.

For more information on this topic, please contact or call (888) 598-7070.


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