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Polygon Corp. v. Seattle, City of

Citation: 8 ELR 20561
No. No. 44536, 578 P.2d 1309/11 ERC 1689/90 Wash. 2d 59, (Wash., 05/18/1978)

The Washington Supreme Court affirms a trial court's decision upholding the Seattle Superintendent of Buildings' denial of an application for a permit to construct a 13-story building because of prospective adverse impacts on the environment. The State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) confers upon the city the substantive discretionary authority to deny a building permit on the basis of adverse environmental impacts disclosed by an environmental impact statement (EIS) prepared under the Act. SEPA's mandate for the disclosure and full consideration of environmental impacts would be meaningless if the decision maker were powerless to decide in the manner that this consideration impelled. Emphasizing the potential for abuse in such discretionary building permit denials and the need to ensure that an appropriate balance is struck between economic, social, and environmental values, the court determines that the Superintendent's decision is subject to judicial review under the "clearly erroneous" test. In view of the level of impacts disclosed by the EIS and the availability of less adverse alternatives, it cannot be said that the Superintendent's decision does not pass this test.The court rejects plaintiff's arguments that the permit denial constituted a de facto rezoning, that SEPA's grant of discretionary substantive authority is an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power, and that the appearance of fairness doctrine applies in administrative proceedings such as this one.

Counsel for Plaintiff-Appellant
Ronald E. McKinstry, Ronald T. Schaps, E. McDuff Archibald
Bogle & Gates
Bank of California Center, Seattle WA 98164
(206) 682-5151

Counsel for Defendants-Respondents
John P. Harris, Corporation Counsel; J. Roger Nowell, Gordon Crandall
Law Department, Municipal Bldg., 6001 45th Ave.
Seattle WA 98104
(206) 625-2402

Counsel for Intervenors-Respondents United South Slope Residents, et al.
Susan R. Agid, Jerome L. Hillis
Hillis, Phillips, Cairncross, Clark & Martin
403 Columbia St., Seattle WA 98104
(206) 623-1745

WRIGHT, C.J., and ROSELLINI, HAMILTON, STAFFORD, UTTER, BRACHTENBACH, HOROWITZ, and DOLLIVER, JJ., concur.