Cougar Mountain Assocs. v. King County
Citation: 19 ELR 20721
No. No. 53841-7, 765 P.2d 264/111 Wash. 742, (Wash., 12/15/1988)
The court holds that King County, Washington, violated Washington's State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) in denying a developer's application to create a housing subdivision by failing to specify the significant environmental effects of the project and by inadequately addressing mitigation. The court first holds that the county's denial of the subdivision application should be reviewed under the clearly erroneous standard rather than under the narrower arbitrary and capricious review, since decisions based on environmental factors are not readily quantifiable and are often made in an atmosphere of intense political pressure. The court next rules that before denying a proposal on SEPA grounds, an agency must set forth specific environmental impacts that would result from the proposal, and specify reasonable mitigation measures that can be taken or state why the impacts are unavoidable and the development should not be allowed. The court holds that since King County merely stated in a conclusory fashion that the proposal would result in significant environmental impacts and that the impacts could not reasonably be mitigated, the county's denial of the subdivision application was erroneous. The court also holds that the application should not have been denied on the basis of the proposal's failure to conform to the population density guides in the county's comprehensive plan, since the application complied with the relevant zoning requirements.
The dissent would hold that King County adequately set forth the basis of its decision to deny the subdivision application. In addition, the dissent would hold that the application's compliance with local zoning ordinances does not prohibit its denial, since the proposal violated the county's comprehensive plan, which had been adopted as the local SEPA policy.
Counsel for Appellant
Richard R. Wilson, Glenn J. Amster
Hillis, Clark, Martin & Peterson
500 Galland Bldg., 1221 Second Ave., Seattle WA 98101-2925
Counsel for Respondent
Norm Maleng, King County Prosecutor; Ann Schindler, Deputy
Rm. W554, King County Courthouse, 516 Third Ave., Seattle WA 98104