Mayor Ron Harding
gives small-minded response to WA. Supreme Court decision
Megan Hansen reported in today's edition of the Nisqually Valley News that Mayor Harding said this of the city's loss in Knight vs. City of Yelm:
"Bottom line - this decision does nothing more than say that Knight had the right to file a lawsuit and because so, does not have to pay attorney fees."
However, Harding's statement is contrary to the Court decision:
Seven justices of the Washington Supreme Court agreed "that the City failed to meet the water availability requirements of state law."
Indeed, on page 21 of the Court's decision, the justices wrote:
"Determining whether there are adequate water sources to serve ... development is certainly within the public interest the City Council must consider before approving the plat application."
Further, the justices gave a stunning rebuke to the city's request for Knight to pay the city's attorney fees:
"Knight was the only party to improve her position in the superior court.
Moreover, because the superior court did not uphold the City Council’s decision—affirming the preliminary plat approval and finding Knight lacked standing—the City is not eligible for fees under RCW 4.84.370(2). Tahoma Terra and the City were not prevailing parties in the superior court."
The Court went on to say this about the subject of attorney fees [pg. 25]:
"Finally, the purpose of RCW 4.84.370 is to discourage meritless appeals. Gig Harbor Marina, 94 Wn. App. at 800. In this case, Knight did not appeal the decision of the superior court. A party such as Knight who does not choose to advance the litigation should not be at risk of paying another party’s attorney fees."
The City of Yelm has been put on notice that state law must be adhered. Continuing "to operate the way we’ve been operating" quoting Mayor Harding from the NVN's website last week, is no longer an option!
To continue from Hansen's NVN report:
"The Superior Court decision came down to 'and/or' in a hearing examiner's preliminary approval of the subdivisions, which would bring more than 500 homes into the area."
"Yelm Community Development Director Grant Beck said the 'and/or' was included because some of the sites had binding site plans, but that the city regularly operates showing proof of water at both stages."
"The approvals were upheld with that change and the city didn't have a problem with that," said Yelm City Administrator Shelly Badger.
Oh brother, the back-pedaling here is mind-boggling!
- Beck says "the city regularly operates showing proof of water at both stages" however, the city spent over $132,000 and countless hours of staff time to defend their stand to show proof of water at the building-permit stage and not at the earlier preliminary plat approval.
- And Badger's comment the city didn't have a problem with the previous Superior Court ruling is ridiculous.
The City fought Knight's issue to the tune of over $132,000 plus countless hours of staff time BECAUSE they did have a problem with the ruling.
Further to quote Hansen's report:
"City of Yelm decided to join the developers involved with the case in appealing the decisions (Thurston County Superior Court siding with Knight) because during the Superior Court case finding the city deemed "offensive and inaccurate" about its water rights were included in the decision."
You bet they were offensive - even the WA. Dept. of Ecology filed an Amicus Brief in the case supporting Knight's claims about Yelm's water rights, or over-pumping and lack thereof, at the time of this case.
"A lot of public time and resources have been spent and we're in the same place as 2008," Badger said.
Badger's statement is ridiculous for 2 reasons:
- The Court denied the developer's and city's requests for Knight to reimburse their attorney fees. After the city won the Appeal, they were elated to report they expecting over $90,000 from Knight in reimbursed fees. Yet, Yelm is now out $132,000 plus alot of staff time.
- The Court's decision cited state law from which the city can no longer sidestep or dance around.
The City of Yelm has been put on notice that state law must be adhered. Continuing "to operate the way we’ve been operating" quoting Mayor Harding, is no longer an option!
We're NOT in the same place as 2008!
And last, this Badger quote from the NVN:
"The city's original preliminary plat approval of the five subdivisions was upheld by Superior Court, Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. The city's process of determining adequate water supply at the preliminary stage was deemed appropriate."
This is NOT true, Mrs. Badger!
The Supreme Court clearly stated on page 21 of their decision:
"RCW 58.17.110(1) requires a local governmental body to “inquire into the public use and interest proposed to be served” by a new development and to determine “[i]f appropriate provisions are made for . . .the public health, safety, and general welfare . . . [and] potable water supplies . . . .”
"Determining whether there are adequate water sources to serve the Tahoma Terra development is certainly within the public interest the City Council must consider before approving the plat application."
The city did not do that [determining adequate water supply at the preliminary stage], which was the crux of this case ("...is certainly within the public interest the City Council must consider before approving the plat application.").
THE CONTINUED SUBTERFUGE BY MAYOR HARDING, COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR BECK & CITY ADMINISTRATOR BADGER IS NOTED!
I was manager for the University of Miami (FL) Football team for 7 season in the 1970's. At the end of every game, no matter how contentious, the coaches, staff and team managers of both teams shook hands with each other and the victors were duly congratulated.
When I was a Sales Manager and became Regional interim Director for the then-largest airline in the "free world", when a route award was parceled out by the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) after a long fight with another airline, the loser still worked with and collaborated with the winners, right down to the rank and file.
That City of Yelm officials continue to twist the truth to supposedly make themselves look good or for some unknown other reason to suit themselves, demonstrates how small-minded these "leaders" at City Hall truly are. Why can't they congratulate an area citizen with whom they battled and show their community they can be bigger than their small mindedness?
Where is their grace and humility?
THIS WOULD BE SOMETHING FOR WHICH THIS COMMUNITY SHOULD BE AWARE!
I love this town - however, nothing personal, I just have little respect for it's government leaders!
Change comes with 2 new Council members in 2013. Let's hope they will be strong enough individuals to stand tall and have the public's interest first in their minds, and not always having to cover their own backsides for the city's agenda.