There are many players in the world of land use planning, regulation and governance. On one side you have property owners. On the other you have a wide range of people and groups who think they know better than anyone else how the property owner’s land should be used. These groups — including activists, politicians, neighbors, local planners, state bureaucrats, scientists, engineers, and other “experts” — often disagree, but they always have an opinion.
On August 31, a Superior Court Judge in San Juan County overturned a ruling by the state’s Shoreline Hearings Board that overturned San Juan County’s issuance of a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit to build a private dock. In his ruling, Judge John Linde said that the “SHB decision overturning the permit issued by the County and disregarding the mitigation plan developed in conjunction with WDFW was arbitrary and capricious and failed to properly interpret and apply the law.”
In his summary the Judge said the following:
The SMA embodies a legislatively determined and voter approved balance between protection of state shorelines and development. Property owners are allowed to construct water-dependent facilities, such as single-family residences, bulkheads and docks. RCW 90.58.100 provides “The master programs provided for in this chapter, when adopted or approved by the department, shall constitute use regulations for the various shorelines of the state.” San Juan County adopted its SMP and the same was approved by the department and adopted as a state regulation. The area of the shoreline involved in this case has been designated as a shoreline of statewide significance. The SMA does not prohibit development of the state shorelines, but rather calls for coordinated planning, recognizing and protecting private property rights, consistent with public interest.
The Court concludes that the Shoreline Substantial Development Permit authorizing Petitioner to construct the residential dock on Pearl Island,
subject to the construction and use provisions set forth in the permit issued by San Juan County and approved by the County Hearing Examiner, complies with the SMA and County SMP. The Petitioner has complied with the mitigation plan approved by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. The proposed dock, included as a part ofthe WDFW experimental program designed to develop information that will better protect eelgrass beds, was properly pern1itted by the County under existing ordinances. The SHB decision overturning the permit issued by the County and disregarding the mitigation plan developed in conjunction with WDFW was arbitrary and capricious and failed to properly interpret and apply the law. The SHB order is not supported by evidence that is substantial when viewed in the light of the whole record before the Court. The Court is convinced that the Board ened in light of the policies ofthe SMP and SMA and has erroneously interpreted and/or applied the law.
The decision of the SHP is overturned and the permit, subject to all conditions, limitations, and mitigation is reinstated.
So, who were the “activists” mentioned in our headline? The Shoreline Hearings Board decision was made after an appeal was filed by Friends of the San Juans. They didn’t care that the property owner had worked for several years with county planners and state bureaucrats to make sure that the project complied with local ordinances and state law. They knew that everyone who wasn’t a Friend of the San Juans was wrong. Thank goodness for the rule of law.
You can read the court’s entire decision here…