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Swift v. Island County

Citation: 6 ELR 20684
No. No. 44016, 552 P.2d 175/87 Wash. 2d 348, (Wash., 07/22/1976)

The Washington Supreme Court holds "clearly erroneous" a county planning director's threshold determination that preparation of an impact statement under the Washington Environmental Policy Act (WEPA) was not required in connection with the approval of two subdivision plats. Reports from a number of federal and state agencies demonstrate that the subdivision, which will be located between Crockett Lake and Puget Sound, will have substantial adverse effects on wildlife using the lake, public access to shorelines, and a nearby historic site and public park. The reports thereby outweigh the "substantial weight" to be accorded an agency's threshold determination under the Environmental Policy Act. The planning director was therefore mistaken in concluding that the development would have "no significant impact" on the environment. The court also voids for lack of an "appearance of fairness" the vote of the county commissioners mandating approval of the plats, because one of the commissioners had a personal interest in the development. The court rules that a single EIS must be prepared covering both portions of the development, but declines to award plaintiffs attorneys fees since the "common fund" doctrine has no application to this case.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Roger M. Leed
Schroeter, Goldmark & Bender
540 Central Building
Seattle WA 98104
(206) 622-8506

Counsel for Defendants
David F. Thiele, County Attorney
David B. Strong, Deputy County Attorney
Coupeville WA 98239
(206) 678-5111

Slade Gorton, Attorney General
James A. Humphrey
Robert V. Jensen, Asst. Attorney General
Temple of Justice
Olympia WA 98504
(206) 753-6200

John C. Coughenour
Dale B. Ramerman
Charles R. Blumenfeld
Bogle & Gates
801 Second Ave., 14th Floor Norton Bldg.
Seattle WA 98104
(206) 682-5151

For the court.