Critical Areas Ordinance opponent considers county lawsuit a personal attack, affront to voter and property rights2001-08-07
by ROGER HARNACK
Peninsula Daily News from http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/sited/story/html/62265
Forde, a Sequim resident, led the petition drive to repeal the ordinance, which governs development near streams, wetlands and slide areas countywide.
``This lawsuit is coming after me as an individual,'' Forde said Monday.
Commissioner Steve Tharinger, D-Sequim, said the lawsuit is not a personal attack.
``The decision we made to pursue a declaratory judgment was based on legal grounds, not personalities,'' Tharinger said.
According to Tharinger, that decision was based on case law, which suggests the initiative may exceed state home-rule laws.
Last week, county Chief Civil Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Chris Melly filed a lawsuit seeking a declaratory ruling to prevent the repeal measure from being placed on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.
Melly has since been unavailable for comment.
Forde named defendant
The lawsuit named Forde as the defendant and as
representative for the “Committee to Repeal the Critical Areas
Forde has 20 days to respond to the legal action
in Superior Court.
The lawsuit asks for a judgment “declaring the
proposed initiative to be beyond the scope of the initiative power of
the people” and for “such further relief as the court deems just
That clause, Forde said, is an effort by the
county to make him pay for the lawsuit.
“When the county initiates a lawsuit, you
better have deep pockets. They
don’t care how much money they spend,” Forde said.
Tharinger said he could not comment on whether
the county would seek reimbursement for legal costs incurred if a
judge rules in favor of the county.
According to Forde, he and other property right
activists will respond to the lawsuit, which alleges state law and the
Clallam County Charter do not give voters the power to repeal the
Critical Areas Ordinance.
Ordinance passed in June
The most recent draft of the ordinance was
approved in June by a 2-1 vote of the county commissioners.
Commissioners Tharinger and Mike Doherty, D-Port
Angeles favored the ordinance. Commissioner Mike Chapman, R-Port Angeles, was opposed.
Forde filed the petition July 9 seeking the
repeal of the ordinance.
On July 24, commissioners voted 2-1 to seek a
court ruling on the repeal initiative and directed Melly to file suit.
Chapman opposed the action and called on his
colleagues to follow the charter, which requires public hearing
following a petition’s certification for the ballot.
But Tharinger and Doherty voted in the majority
to seek a court ruling.
“To get the opinion of the court is proper,”
Doherty said at the time.
Melly also informed commissioners at that time
that case law suggests the county could preempt the ballot initiative.
State guidelines set Sept. 21 as the deadline for
including a measure on the general election ballot.
“The county may have to call a special election
just to deal with this,” Forde said.
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