Growth Management: County's comp plan withstands legal appeal  - An appeals court finds no error by Kitsap County in drafting the 1998 document.

By Christopher Dunagan
Bremerton Sun Staff

Bremerton, WA - 5/20/02 - Kitsap County's comprehensive plan, adopted in 1998, has been upheld by the Washington State Court of Appeals.

In the last remaining lawsuit against the controversial document, the court rejected claims from Manke Lumber Co., which owns forestland on Hood Canal, and Warren Posten Sr., who owns a marine repair business in Keyport.

The 1998 plan was Kitsap County's third attempt to comply with the Growth Management Act after plans drafted in 1994 and 1996 were rejected by the Central Puget Sound Growth Hearings Board.

Manke's properties were designated "rural wooded" in the 1996 plan, which allowed a density of one unit per 2.5 acres. The 1998 plan, which was upheld by the growth hearings board, designated the same land "interim rural forest," with a density of one unit per 20 acres.

Manke said such a designation, particularly for its shoreline properties on Hood Canal, was arbitrary because the county failed to conduct studies to figure out the most appropriate density for the shoreline.

The appeals court disagreed.

"Manke's bare assertions fall short of rebutting the presumption (of validity)," the court wrote in a decision issued Friday. "The GMA allows local governments wide discretion in developing their plans because they must abide by those plans."

State law allows, but does not require, a higher density of development along the shoreline, the court said.

In his part of the lawsuit, Posten contended that Keyport should have remained an urban growth area in the 1998 plan, as it was in the invalidated 1996 plan. He also pointed out an inconsistency between county planning maps.

"Posten mistakenly relies on the belief that an area possessing some urban features mandates designating it as a UGA, or that the former characterization of Keyport as a UGA compels the same classification," the appeals court stated.

The three judges rejected arguments from Posten that he did not receive adequate notice of the "downzone" of his property and that county attorneys and hearings board members engaged in misconduct.

Margaret Archer, a Tacoma lawyer representing Manke but not Posten, said she was disappointed in the ruling because the county's planning process was "disingenuous."

Archer, who received the written ruling Monday, said she could not say whether she will appeal to the State Supreme Court.

The ruling was written by Appeals Court Judge Elaine M. Houghton with concurrence from judges J. Dean Morgan and Karen G. Seinfeld.

Published in The Sun: 05/21/2002

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