The opposition against Jeff McCann and McKinley LLC’s (“McCann”) endeavor to short plat a property near Ravensdale WA, King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review, (“County“), denied their short plat application.
The King County Superior Court stated McCann met the burden to establish that the county’s land use decision was an erroneous interpretation of law.
In this case, the County’s zoning ordinance allowed lots in this zone to be subdivided into 10-acre parcels. McCann wished to subdivide 49.95 acres into 4, 10-plus acre lots. After McCann had a vested short plat application, county staff believed that due to previous land use activities that McCann had done on other surrounding property it had owned, that it had already “used” the density in the larger area surrounding the property. County staff determined McCann needed to reduce its application for new lots from four to three.
Disagreeing, McCann made application to King County for a Code Interpretation. According to King County’s website: A code interpretation request may be made for a specific development proposal, as part of a code enforcement case, or for the general application of a specific KCC section. Development codes including KCC Titles 9, 14, 16, 19A, 20, 21A, and 23. The Code Interpretation Committee returned a decision that affirmed the county staff’s opinion.
McCann then appealed the case to the King County Hearing Examiner. McCann and King County each presented their cases. McCann advocated for a 4 Lot Short Plat and the county advocated for 3 lots. At the hearing, the expert witness for the county testified in support of McCann’s position for 4-lots. He testified that he worked for the county and authored that section of the code. He firmly believed the county was incorrectly interpreting their code in this case. The Hearing Examiner came back and not only ruled in favor of King County, but went several steps then even County staff. The Hearing Examiner determined that the 50-acre lot could not be subdivided at all. The conclusion was that McCann’s only option was to build one home on the entire site.
McCann then appealed to King County Superior Court. The court over-turned the decisions of King County Staff, King County’s Code Interpretation and the King County Hearing Examiner. It stated McCann “met its burden to establish that King County’s land use decision was an erroneous interpretation of law, clearly erroneous application of the law to the facts; and/or that elements of the County’s land use decision were not supported by substantial evidence.” It further stated in its final order granting Land Use Petition Act (LUPA), “the land use decision of King County denying the short plat application at issue and interpreting KCC 19A.08.180 is reversed.” Further, it stated that the property could be subdivided into four lots. Finally, the court specified that since McCann prevailed in whole, the county must reimburse it for their costs to prepare the record.
It might seem trivial to spend so much time fighting for one lot, but we need more accountability and transparency in land use decisions. We need someone to be the owner’s advocate and challenge incorrect interpretations of the code.