Thursday, December 21, 2006

CAO Decision from the Washington State Supreme Court

1000 Friends of Washington v. McFarland
"Today, we are asked to decide whether county ordinances enacted under detailed procedures established by the state Growth Management Act (GMA), chapter 36.70A RCW, to designate and protect critical areas are subject to a veto by a local vote. More than a decade ago, this court substantially answered that question. Brisbane, 125 Wn.2d 345. There, we concluded that GMA ordinances, at least those relating to critical areas, are not subject to referenda. We reached that decision on several grounds, including the fact that the county was required by the State to designate and protect critical areas and that the State had established elaborate procedures for public participation that were inconsistent with local up and down votes. The petitioners ask us to revisit and overrule Brisbane. We decline to do so.

HT to Stefan at Sound Politics, who does not concur.

Don't miss Justice James M. Johnson's dissent:

"The King County Council (Council) adopted three controversial ordinances. The three were a "critical areas" ordinance, a clearing and grading ordinance, and a stormwater ordinance, which regulated the use of land only in unincorporated areas of King County. Those ordinances were adopted only by the votes of council members representing incorporated King County; council members representing the affected areas opposed each ordinance. Appellant Rodney McFarland filed referenda to allow voters to determine the council ordinances at election. Advocacy groups opposed to the referenda filed to enjoin the referenda and were joined by King County, which has taken over the case. The King County Superior Court by order prohibited election on the proposed referenda. A majority of this court now approves this denial of the people's exercise of their right to check legislative power."

And later in the dissent:

"Operating akin to an executive veto, the people’s exercise of the right of referendum on GMA-related local ordinances is entirely permissible. Referenda calling for a “yes” or “no” vote on nonmandatory, local ordinances passed pursuant to the GMA are consistent with GMA procedural requirements."

Update 12/22/06: Comments from the parties: Keith Ervin -- Seattle Times staff reporter

"In Washington state and maybe other places we're simply moving away from the concept of private property into more collectivist control of everything," said Rodney McFarland, of May Valley, the president of the Citizens' Alliance for Property Rights. "I don't think that's good." McFarland had submitted the petitions requesting that King County put its 2004 land-use rules on the ballot. Tim Trohimovich, planning director of the pro-growth-management group Futurewise, which went to court to block the referendums, welcomed the court ruling. (Futurewise's suit against McFarland was filed under the group's former name, 1000 Friends of Washington. The case title is 1000 Friends of Washington v. Rodney McFarland.) "We need effective growth management," Trohimovich said. "The voters have recognized it and the courts have recognized it — and in all those cases by a pretty wide margin."