By Polly Keary, Editor
When the appeal period expired for seeking overturn of a hearing examiner decision allowing a controversial rezone to take place at the east edge of Monroe, it seems that the decade-long battle over the land was over.
But in March, a group of long-time rezone opponents appealed the December decision to a higher authority; the Growth Management Act Hearings Board.
While so far the struggle between owners of property just east of Woods Creek who wanted to rezone the land for commercial use and homeowners above the land who oppose that rezone has been carried out within the city.
The first petition for a rezone of the 48 acre parcel came in 2004. By 2012, the matter had been in front of the city a number of times, but never successfully.
At the very end of last year, in a special session, the city council finally approved the rezone from limited open space to general commercial.
An appeal to a city hearing examiner failed, and the appellants did not appear inclined to fight the rezone beyond that.
But February 18, James Blair, representing several members of his family as well as longtime rezone opponent Lowell Anderson, took the matter to the state.
The Growth Management Hearings Board has the power to resolve land use disputes statewide, because local land use falls under state Growth Management Act law.
The new appeal argues that the ordinances creating the rezone are inconsistent with the city’s own Comprehensive Plan, which is required to be in compliance with state law and Growth Management Act regulations.
“This property is isolated from the commercial core and lacks viable pedestrian, transit and utility access,” said Misty Blair, who drew on professional planning experience to draft the petition for review for her family. “Furthermore, the land itself is entirely encumbered by critical areas; steep landslide prone slopes, fish bearing stream, high quality wetlands, and active Skykomish River floodplain.”
Recently, the Blairs submitted a supplementary petition specific to perceived conflicts with the city’s shoreline rules.
Also, the Blairs learned of another petition for review being written by long-time rezone opponent Doug Hamar, so the parties consolidated their objections to the hearings board.
The hearings board has the power to either strike the ordinance down entirely or to send it back to the city for revision, should the ruling favor the petitioners.
But typically GMHB disputes are settled before the hearing, said Blair.
The hearings board requires that the parties make at least one attempt to resolve the matter on their own before holding a formal hearing.
Through the rest of this month, May and June, the parties will prepare and respond to motions from each other. If no resolution is reached, the GMHB will hear the matter July 17, with a decision rendered by August 26.