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Washington Dep't of Natural Resources v. Lake Lawrence Pub. Lands Protection Ass'n

Citation: 10 ELR 20849
No. No. 45816, 601 P.2d 494/92 Wash. 2d 656, (Wash., 10/04/1979)

The Washington Supreme Court holds that a board of county commissioners (board) has independent authority under the State Environmental Poicy Act (SEPA) to deny, for environmental reasons, an application for residential development. Lake Lawrence, Inc. applied to the board to develop an area of low density residential development. Based on an environmental impact statement (EIS) which demonstrated that the development would harm bald eagle habitat in the area, the board denied the application for a preliminary plat and shoreline development permit. On appeal, the Shorelines Hearing Board reversed the denial of the shoreline development permit, ruling that the revised plat application would provide adequate protection for the eagles and was consistent with the county's master plan. On remand, the board again denied the preliminary plat as not in the public interest within the meaning of the platting statute, WASH. REV. CODE ANN § 58.17.110. The trial court reversed and ordered the board to issue the permit and approve the plat. Reversing the trial court, the Washington Supreme Court first rules that although the platting statute does not provide explicit authority to deny the plat for environmental reasons, the board is required by SEPA to consider the environmental impact as part of the platting decision process and may deny a project if the adverse impacts are too great. The court also finds that the board is not bound by the decision of the Shorelines Hearing Board, which is also subject to SEPA, because the latter body has limited authority to determine only whether a shoreline development permit is consistent with the county's master plan and the Shoreline Management Act, not whether a preliminary plat should be approved. In addition, environmental decisions mandated by SEPA are not binding on other government decision-making bodies. Second, the court rules that the board's authority under SEPA to deny a plat on environmental grounds is not an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power. Finally, the court concludes that the denial of the plat was not an unconstitutional taking of private property for public use; the board's decision does not deny all reasonably profitable uses but only requires protection of the resource.

The full text of this opinion is available from ELR (7 pp. $1.50, ELR Order No. C-1225).

Counsel for Petitioner
Charles B. Coe, Robert V. Jensen, Ass't Attorneys General
Temple of Justice, Olympia WA 98504
(206) 753-2550

Philip P. Malone
P.O. Box 443, Poulsbo WA 98370
(206) 779-5518

Roger M. Leed
Smith, Brucker, Winn & Ehlent
1411 Fourth Ave., Seattle WA 98101
(206) 624-8901

Counsel for Respondents/Cross-Appellants
Alexander W. Mackie Jr., J. Lawrence Coniff Jr.
Owens, Weaver, Davies & Dominick
Bank of Olympia Bldg., 9th & Capitol Way, Olympia WA 98501
(206) 943-8320

Patrick Sutherland, Ass't Attorney General
Temple of Justice, Olympia WA 98504
(206) 753-2550

Horowitz, J.