Oops…again, Rezone Back. Strike Three–File Suit

My apologies to my cousin Castle for using the photo shoot of his creative metal sculptures as the graphic for this unpleasant announcement. They seemed to fit the bill.

Castle sculture nightWell,…….in my last post I said, “I wish I could say with 100% certainty that this is strike three, you are out!” It was, but it wasn’t. At that time, I had not fully understood the process by which they could appeal the umpire’s decision. I figured that if they (the church) appealed the umpire’s (the Growth Management Board) decision, the Board had a team of lawyers to deal with it—Wrong! The Board does not defend its own decisions in court. The church has filed an appeal of the Board’s decision with the Superior Court. If the Court decides to hear the appeal, we will have to find an attorney willing to take the case on. Of course, I am hoping the Court will respond with something like, “Are you crazy? Go away and stop bothering us!” Meanwhile, I have until May 2nd to respond to the 23 reasons the church feels the Board’s decision should be tossed out. Fortunately, I have a lot of documentation to respond with.

The sculpture is pointing to Jupiter upper left. Lower right is a large ball  bearing reflecting a flashlight.

The sculpture is pointing to Jupiter upper left. Lower right is a large ball bearing reflecting a flashlight.

This is my first time on the receiving end of a summons—“A lawsuit has been started against you in the above-entitled court by the petitioner.” Lovely. The church is suing everybody in the case including the City. The City because “the political winds have changed” and it appears that all but one holdout on the City Council wants to “comply” with the Board’s decision this time around, leaving this debacle behind them as quickly as possible. As long as the City is out of compliance, they cannot get State grants for funding other projects. Due to this ridiculous rezoning attempt, they have been out of compliance since August of 2014.

Sadly—to be continued.

Pterodactyl with egg

Sergei Rockchompumoff

Sergei Rockchompumoff

Rezone Invalidated For A Third Time—Yahoo!

If you haven’t been following the rezone issue in this blog and you want the skinny, just put “East Monroe” in the search box above and you will get my previous posts on the subject.

Me—giant sigh of relief.

The Growth Management Hearings Board issued their finding on April 1st. Fortunately, it was not an April Fool’s joke. The ruling did reaffirm how foolish the advocates of this rezone have been, spending many hundreds of thousands of public and private dollars over the last five years trying to sidestep the science, economics and public interest at issue in this rezone. This was a private party rezone from Limited Open Space (as it was purchased by the party) to General Commercial—a rezoning for which there was no actual development project to consider.

Proposed location of Big Box store, etc.

Proposed location of Big Box store, etc.

Rezone evidence web--2

Backyard birds that might well have vacated the area.

Rezone evidence web--3

I was, of course, ecstatic that the Board once again invalidated the rezone in their 57 page decision, but I was all the more pleased that two of the three Hearings Board members felt compelled to go beyond the required decision and add their own “concurrence” statements. That of Board Member Pflug goes right to the heart of the years of frustration I experienced documenting the complete BS being offered up by the City and the property owner’s hired “expert” consultants.

If you are interested, here is that concurrence:


I concur with the conclusion that the City’s rezone of the Property fails to comply with the requirements of SEPA in the respects identified in the decision above. I write concerning public involvement with the SEPA process. Both Ordinance 015/2015 and 016/2015, re-adopting the East Monroe rezone and map amendment, recite identical Findings, including Finding 18, which states:

During the course of the SEIS process … there was no expert testimony that refutes, undermines or otherwise contradicts PACE’s supplemental environmental analysis that was received by the City.

WAC 197-11-030 states that agencies shall, to the fullest extent possible,
“[e]ncourage public involvement in decisions that significantly affect environmental quality.”
In the Board’s view, the City foreclosed an opportunity to achieve an adequate EIS process
by dismissing important feedback as inferior to the opinions of its experts. At the
Compliance Hearing, the City Attorney was dismissive of the conflicting information
presented by Petitioners who have now spent many years studying applicable law and
government impact studies:

That does not change the professional determination by the City’s
consultants, which is unchallenged by any expert testimony in this
proceeding, that the actual portions of the East Monroe property that are
capable, physically and legally, of being developed, reasonably being
developed, is still limited to 11.3 acres. That’s a critical part of this analysis.
And, again, it’s essentially unchallenged with any meaningful opposition.

The Board does not hold up these concerned citizens as experts, but it notes that its
findings and conclusions supra confirm the validity of many of their concerns. This is likely
one reason lawmakers have inserted requirements for public involvement in the SEPA
process. Given the significant agency effort necessary to facilitate public involvement, failure to respectfully consider the information and perspectives so gained is puzzling.

Similarly, both Ordinance 015/2015 and 016/2015, acknowledge the Planning Commission’s 2015 recommendation that the rezone be denied. Seven days after the Planning Commission recommended denial of the rezone, the City issued the final 2015 Supplemental. Eight days after issuance of the Final 2015 SEIS, the Council formally reviewed the Planning Commission’s recommendation and, “having enjoyed the opportunity to carefully review the final version of the SEIS, expressed its disagreement with the Commission’s determination and directed City staff to prepare ordinances approving the East Monroe amendments.”

WAC 197-11-402(10) cautions that “EISs shall serve as the means of assessing the environmental impact of proposed agency action, rather than justifying decisions already
made.” Yet, the re-adoption of the invalidated 2013 Ordinances rezoning and reclassifying the property was the identified goal of the 2015 Supplemental process. In fact, after acknowledging the Planning Commission’s 2015 findings, both Ordinance Nos. 015/2015 and 016/2015 proceed to adopt the Commission’s 2013 findings contained in the invalidated Ordinances:

In making these findings and conclusions, the City Council further adopts the Planning Commission’s Findings and Conclusions dated December 9, 2013, (Exhibit H3 to Ordinance no. 022/2013) and also adopts the City Council’s additional findings adopted December 26, 2013, (Exhibit I to Ordinance no. 022/2013) in support of approving the East Monroe Comprehensive Plan Map Amendment and Zoning Map Amendment.

The emphasis on justifying the feasibility of commercial development of the Property despite its environmentally sensitive location may have been the underlying cause for a Supplement EIS that ultimately failed to provide the impartial analysis required by WAC 197-11-400(2).

In addition to the expenditure of considerable public resources during this lengthy process, I am concerned that the concerns of citizens may not have been afforded due consideration. Given the importance of public participation in government action, care should be taken to insure that citizens are afforded respect.


I wish I could say with 100% certainty that this is “strike three, you are out!” I do think it will be very difficult to bring it back out of the dugout for at least a couple of years, considering the political balance of power in Monroe at present.

Here is a link to the Monroe Monitor’s latest article on the issue.

Afternoon Feather Report

Fall colors cheer on the swans

Swans in Skykomish Valley

Rising mist lifts my spirits beyond

Daly South 0109-

The shorter days that may make me scowl

Daly South High Rock

I shall remain unflappable while the weather is fowl

Geese clouds 0037-2

Planning Commission Victory

The amazing sunrises this time of year are almost a routine event. This one was a doubleheader. These are from the same day, a few minutes apart.

Last night the Planning Commission voted 6-1 in our favor to keep commercial development out of this valley. Unfortunately, that doesn’t kill the rezone. There is still a majority on the City Council that will approve it anyway. But, it does give us more ammunition when it goes back to the Growth Management Hearings board.

7:18 AM

Daly sunrise 1961-7:34 AM

Daly sunrise 1985-

A Less Colorful Sunrise, But Still…

Daly sunrise 1944 bw-The Spirits of Halloween already making the scene!

Daly sunrise 1928-2OK, so there was a little more color in it than that.

I was up late last night, but I got another 11 pages of comments on the rezone EIS into the City by noon today. Now, I’m working on my speech for Monday’s Planning Commission hearing.

Another Nice Sunrise


And the moon was along for the ride.Daly Sunrise-061877 Daly Sunrise-061881As an update to my last post :

The City has given us more time (until this Friday, noon) to comment on the new Environmental Impact Statement for the commercial rezone in this valley. On the one hand, this is good, because I have plenty more to say. On the other hand, I’m pretty tired of saying it.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

It’s back!!!! No, not the Super Blood Moon Eclipse, the rezone I have been fighting for 5 years!

Yes, The City has published the new “Supplemental” Environmental Impact Statement and the findings are as fake as this photo, but not nearly as well faked, if I do say so myself. This was the photo I had hoped to get, but the haze and the full eclipse made the moon nearly invisible at that point in the sky.

Super duper blood moonIf you are new to the story of the rezone on the property below my house, or need a refresher, here it is:

Church buys oxbow/slough and 43 acres of wetlands in1999. They see the property as perfect for a 500 member church. Over time, the church realizes they are in way over their heads—the project would be far too expensive, besides they only have 40 members. They latch onto the idea they can make a pile of money on the property by getting it rezoned from Limited Open Space to General Commercial and selling it to a big box retailer. For many years they try getting the idea past the Planning Commission without success. This failure is partly because the City’s Comprehensive Plan has the property zoned Limited Open Space for the specific purpose of preventing commercial sprawl into this valley, partly because the property is a mile away from the city’s other commercial districts (already struggling to fill vacant space), and largely because, environmentally, the idea is insane.

By 2010, the Pastor of this church is feeling very frustrated. The pastor’s son, a skilled political consultant, finesses the take over of the City Council and the mayor’s office. The new team ignores the planning commission and pushes forward with the rezone and its enabling comprehensive plan amendment. To proceed, they first need an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The City staff is put to the task. It becomes clear that any City staff members who voice concerns about the rezone will not have their jobs long.

A few of my neighbors and I appeal the resulting EIS. The Hearings Examiner agrees with us and invalidates the Comp Plan and rezone. A month later, the mayor fires the Hearings Examiner. This was 2012.

In 2013, An international engineering firm with a “team of experts” takes the job of producing a “real” EIS. They accept a lien on the property as guarantee of payment for their services. The new EIS is over 200 pages—very long on detail, and very short on reality. Pretty much everything in it is outrageously inaccurate, but the most outrageous claim they make is that removing the blackberries on the property will provide 30,000 cubic yards of compensatory flood storage (No, I’m not kidding). They continually insist that their LIDAR-generated TOPO map is far more accurate than the conventional survey map. This is because the LIDAR is interpreting the 8′ high blackberry bushes along the slough as solid ground that can be excavated for flood storage.

We appeal, but the new Hearings Examiner sides with the City. A special session of the City Council is called on December 26, 2013 to approve the rezone so that the mayor can sign it into law before his four years in office are over.

We appeal to the State Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB). In September of 2014, the GMHB invalidates the comp plan amendment/rezone and sends it back to the City for a re-think. By this time, the City has spent over $250,000 in taxpayer funds on a private party’s rezone attempt.

When it comes time to decide whether to drop the whole thing or try to address the concerns of the GMHB with a new version of the EIS, one council member is absent. The vote is a tie. In this situation, the new mayor who opposes the rezone is allowed a vote. He breaks the tie. The rezone is finally dead……..we thought. After we all leave the council chamber in celebration, one council member invokes Robert’s Rules of Order and announces his intention to bring the decision back at the next council meeting when his compadre would be present. Of course, the vote goes the other way at that following meeting.

So, here we are. On August 28, 2015, the new 200 page “Supplemental” EIS is published and we are given 30 days to respond. The blackberry bushes are no longer playing a role, but the claims in this new EIS are just as staggeringly bizarre. I turned in my 18 page response. The battle goes on.

You can’t always get what you want, but……this is the photo I did get that night—in between writing like mad to meet the next day’s deadline.

Blood moon-


This is #10 and the last of the images I submitted to the 2015 Audubon Photo Contest. I think this one is my favorite because it contains five elements that float my boat: the desert, rocks, ancient history, birds, and a sense of spirituality. Floating one’s boat in the desert is always surprisingly satisfying.Hieroglyphic blog-


This is a “puddle shot” composition from 2011—it is still one of my favorites. For me, it brings to mind an old English tapestry.Tapestry _ blog-

Skykomish River Valley

A couple of days ago I submitted ten photo-creations to Audubon’s 2015 Photography Awards contest. I was happy they had an “Art”category this year because, though I do have some pretty nice bird photos, I don’t have any as magnificent as those that typically win this competition. I decided to post my entries here one at a time—there is quite a bit of detail in some of them :-). The first is my homage to the eagles that regularly accent my view of the valley. The fun thing for me with Photoshop is that I can take photos that range from excellent to pretty awful on their own and mix them up to create my own visual poetry.Skykomish River Valley_blog-