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.

Rezone Update GMHB Hearing

Yesteday, we had the final hearing in our effort to keep commercial development out of this farming valley. I think it went well, but I can’t say what the outcome will be for sure. The decision is now in the hands of the Growth Management Board. They give us their verdict the first of March. In any case, after many months, I have my life back—Yee Ha! I hope to be posting to this blog a lot more often :-)Daly View East 0618 -960px-

Rezone Update

As expected, the City Council blew off the Planning Commission’s recommendation and voted 4-3 to approve the rezoning of the 43 acre wetlands/slough/farmland below me from Limited Open Space to General Commercial—for a third time in as many years. The City submitted its “Statement of Compliance” to the Growth Management Board on the 1st of December and we had until January 4th to respond. I pulled an all-nighter (minus a couple of hours sleeping in my chair), and sent mine off a half hour before the 5pm deadline. I had spent the last three months researching the obfuscation in the new 248 page “Supplemental” Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), but I didn’t allow myself enough time to get everything I wanted into a coherent presentation. It was 30 pages, but it could have easily been 60.

This 2015 SEIS is supposed to remedy the environmental issues in the 348 page 2013 EIS that precipitated the Board’s invalidation of the rezone in 2014. In that 2013 EIS, the engineering firm that created it insisted that the blackberry bushes—eight feet high and hundreds of feet long—were solid ground according to their infallible LIDAR maps. If excavated, these “mounds” would provide all the compensatory flood storage they needed to raise their 11 acre building site a foot above floodplain. The Board felt they hadn’t adequately considered how grading the property down to the edge of the slough would affect currents during a flood and how that might erode the base of the steep slope at the top of which my forty neighbors and I reside.

East Monroe During Nov 18, 2015 flood

East Monroe During Nov 18, 2015 flood

With the blackberry bush ruse now untenable and clearly too little compensatory flood storage available to allow for raising the building site a foot above floodplain, the only option was to lower the floodplain. So, the engineering firm brings in an additional unimpeachable expert to impeach their own unimpeachable conclusions in the 2013 EIS. Miraculously, and to everyone’s astonishment, they “discover”—actually, they decide from a cursory investigation—that there is no culvert beneath the railroad tracks at the entrance end of the slough, so all the water in the slough is coming from ditches along the highway. Now, you might think that would be easy to disprove because every aerial photo shows the slough approaching the tracks from the south and continuing on to the north toward the East Monroe property, but the culvert is deeply submerged and in a difficult place to access. The railroad, BNSF will not confirm or deny there is a culvert there. A local farmer did investigate with an 8′ rod and found what he figured was likely the culvert. But, they’ve got the “expert” who authored the FEMA studies of the Skykomish and Snoqualmie rivers responding, “Frankly, if there is a culvert there, and it is buried, it is performing the same function as no culvert at all.”

This finding is incredibly convenient. It allows them—using the Army Corp of Engineers’ river analysis software—to model the slough as a very small tributary instead of a side channel of the river. It means flood water can only back onto the property from the west end. This in turn means, at the peak of a flood, the water in the slough is at a complete standstill. And, according to the expert, it means the base flood elevation can be lowered from 67ft to 65.35 ft. And, it means these are now the “existing condition” by which all other impacts are measured.

Well, of course, this is all BS, but it took downloading that software and its 800 page manual, and months of research to undermine the credibility of this expert with his own earlier pronouncements and studies—as well as those of many other experts in the field. Then, the day after the City adopted the new rezone ordinances, we had a flood. The water flowed in from the east end and continued down hill as it always does.

East Monroe flood 0225-

It is in the hands of the Board, now. The City has 10 days to respond to our objections.

Fortunately for the cause, another neighbor has a much better grasp of the legal inadequacies of this rezone attempt, and she submitted her own 30 pages on the subject. They have a lot to weasel their way out of. I’m pretty confident they will not succeed.

Take Five on the Rezone

Yes, it looks like we will be fighting the commercial rezone of the valley below me for a fifth year. :-(

As I was writing my speech for last night’s Council meeting, I spotted these eagles taking advantage of the windy day. I was hoping it was a good omen. Nope.

Eagles and clouds-8233At the end of the day, the vote went as expected: 4 to 3 in favor of redoing the Environmental Impact Statement in order to get the needed approval from the Growth Management Board for the rezone. Several of us tried our best to get these four to justify their decision based on the environmental realities of the property or the best interests of the City, but they stuck with simply calling it a property rights issue.

The process will take another nine months to a year to complete. The City will need an extension on the Board’s time-line for compliance. I will petition the board to refuse to grant that extension, but I don’t anticipate having much luck there. Our side has a great deal more experience advocating for this property now, so I am reasonably confident we will prevail once again, but it is such a colossal waste of everybody’s time and taxpayer money.

Oh, $#!!!!!++++!! Zombie rezone back from the dead

The church offered to pay the cost of the new Environmental Impact statement so long as the engineering firm that did the last one—which was 95% BS—prepared the new one. We just discovered that this engineering firm has had a lien on the property for the entire cost of their work since the beginning. So they have their own reasons for wanting to continue since they seem to think the property has no value unless rezoned. Even so, the amount the church is willing to shoulder represents only about a third of the cost the city will incur going through the process again. My theory is that someone, most likely the Pastor’s son—a former council member, now political consultant—put the screws to his two political proteges who broke ranks and voted to stop the bleeding at the October 14 council meeting. These two council members and the two who remained true to the cause came to last night’s council meeting united in the suspicion that the large cost estimates they were given earlier were the result of a conspiracy between the new mayor and the planning department staff—a conspiracy intended to bring the issue to an end. The mayor responded that he had been taken aback by the numbers in the estimate himself, and had questioned the staff extensively on their reasoning for those numbers. One of the more perceptive council members pointed out that these four united council members had, earlier in the year, heaped praise on this same planning staff for ushering through the failed EIS, but now when their cost estimates do not support continuing with the rezone effort, the staff’s numbers are suspect. The reality is, as with most government estimates, they are probably low.

As usual, I took up my entire 5 minutes, down to the second. I mostly pointed out that the huge legal costs to the City were the result of their acceptance of the many obvious inaccuracies and deceptions in the first EIS and that it really didn’t seem prudent to give the same firm another go at it. No matter, at the end of the meeting, one of them announced he would move to rescind the October 14 decision at the December 2 council meeting. It looks like I am in for another year of this. :-( The chances this property would or even could be developed commercially seem almost nil, but my experience in this saga tells me that trusting government officials to act in the best interest of the community, in accordance with law, or using common sense is a bad bet.



Catch A Falling Star/Rezone Update

Falling StarThis star fell out of the sky a couple of days ago and landed on my patio. It isn’t often you get to see where a falling star lands. I should have seen it as a good omen, because Tuesday night’s City Council vote went our way—the commercial rezone of this beautiful stretch of the Skykomish River Valley is finally a dead issue. This time, I am reasonably confident that a future zombie sequel is unlikely. When presented with an estimate of $195,000 to prepare a third Environmental Impact Statement that would have any chance of surviving appeals, two Councilmen threw in the towel. The vote went 5 – 2 in our favor. Of the two stalwarts for continuing, one was the guy who pushed for rescinding the same decision three weeks ago—he stuck with his argument that it was worth it just to change the color of the map, because having 43 acres of red on the map would draw the attention of developers to Monroe even if nobody could or would actually build on that particular acreage; the other was a guy who has seen it as purely a property rights issue and at this point the City owes it to the property owner to see it through to the bitter end.

If not for a few votes in the last election, that second guy would have been our mayor. He was on the Planning Commission four years ago when this rezone proposal was finally docketed—after many years of failing to get past the Planning Commission (because it is insane!).

Ostensibly, the actual owner of this property is a baptist fellowship. They purchased it in 1999 and shortly thereafter began lobbying to get it rezoned. The pastor of that fellowship, and the only representative of that fellowship I have seen or heard from in the four years that I’ve been involved, did get up and speak this time. He basically said all our arguments were lies and fear-mongering to selfishly protect our view and our appeals are the reason for the enormous cost to the City. There is some truth to the cost issue, but it’s a little like observing that the father is in jail for beating his wife and it is the kid’s fault for calling the police. Certainly, had a shopping center gone in on this property, it would have left the City scarred and crippled for many years. The pastor also said that the reason no one other than him among the Baptist community had shown up to support the rezone—at least in the last four years—is because they are too busy building orphanages in the mountains of Honduras (no, really, that is what he said). I spoke with someone afterward who seemed to know some members of his congregation, and this person’s take was that none of them had ever showed up because they were sick of the whole affair. I do have to say that the pastor and his son, a former City Councilman (now, political consultant) worked very hard and skilfully over many years to engineer a political window of opportunity for the rezone. I think that window is now closed. Hallelujah!

My Post East Monroe Rezone Reset

Hmmm, seems I haven’t posted for quite a long while. I’ve been distracted. For the past four years, I have been involved along with some of my neighbors in fighting the City of Monroe’s effort to rezone the property below me from Limited Open Space to General Commercial. This rezone would allow for a big box shopping center to intrude upon the landscape pictured in the accompanying photographs. In our 2012 appeal, the City’s hearings examiner sided with us. For 2013, the City hired a new hearings examiner who sided with them. This year, navigating the State appeals process with the Growth Management Hearings Board has consumed much of my time and energy. I was up 40 hours straight preparing the 25-page pre-hearing brief to submit before the deadline ( I don’t recommend this for anyone over 60). I really could not have done it without professor Katie, my editor who, with considerable effort, kept me from exceedingly “clever” exposition that no one but myself would understand. The actual hearing was July 17, but we don’t receive the verdict until August 26. I have to believe that commercial development on an old oxbow of the Skykomish River, situated in /100 yr floodplain, would strike anyone without a vested interest as insane—so I am feeling optimistic. At any rate, I am done with it! I can get back to more creative endeavors. Yay!!!!