Everett appeals shore ruling -Charges Hearings Board overstepped its authority in reaching the conclusion that all land within 200 feet of the state's major shorelines is automatically a 'critical area' under the Growth Management Act.

By Janice Podsada
Everett Herald Writer


EVERETT, WA-- The city has filed an appeal in Snohomish County Superior Court challenging a state board's decision that struck down its revised shoreline master plan.

The appeal alleges that the Central Puget Sound Hearings Board overstepped its authority and made a decision not based on state law when it rejected three parts of the city's shoreline plan.

A hearing date for the appeal has not been set.

In January, the three-member state board ruled that the city's plan did not adequately protect fragile shoreline and fish habitats at the Marshland site on the Snohomish River and the shores of Smith and north Spencer islands.

Board members said the decision was based on two state statutes: the Growth Management Act, which governs growth of rural and urban areas, and the Shoreline Management Act, which governs development of land within 200 feet of state waters.

But city officials said the board failed to correctly interpret the statutes.

As an example, said Eric Johnson, assistant director of the Washington Public Port Association, "the board reached the astonishing conclusion that all land within 200 feet of the state's major shorelines is automatically a 'critical area' under the Growth Management Act. Many urban and industrial areas' ports and highways are located in these areas."

Members of the Everett Shorelines Coalition said they were surprised by the city appeal's harsh allegations.

"We didn't expect they were going to greet the decision with open arms," said Peggy Toepel, co-chairwoman of the coalition.

But, "I was a little surprised that it was critical of the hearings board. The relatively harsh language caught me by surprise," she said.

Toepel said the appeal called the board's decision an "unlawful procedure and decision-making process," "capricious and arbitrary," and in "violation of constitutional provisions."

"The coalition's next move is digesting this," said Toepel, who got her first look at the appeal on Tuesday.

Attorney Eric Laschever, who filed the appeal on behalf of the city, said the state board "missed the big picture."

By focusing on specific shoreline areas, the board failed to see the balance the city had achieved between preservation and appropriate development, Laschever said.

Added Everett city planner Paul Roberts, "We adopted a plan that provided for an extraordinary level of environmental protection."

The city's former shoreline plan, written in 1976, protected about 100 acres. The revised plan would have protected 4,000 acres, Roberts said.

The plan was approved by the state Department of Ecology and adopted by the Everett City Council in spring 2002. In July, the citizens coalition challenged the city's plan because it did not protect five environmentally sensitive areas.

In January, the hearings board, which is authorized to hear challenges alleging that government agencies failed to comply with the Growth Management Act and Shoreline Management Act, found in favor of the coalition on three of the five areas.

The city could either rewrite its plan or appeal the decision. The city, along with the Port of Everett, chose to appeal the plan.


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