East Monroe rezone fight continues

While the city of Monroe is poised to take action that would end pursuit of the east Monroe rezone, property owner Heritage Baptist Church-áhas announced it will seek judicial review of the matter in Snohomish County Superior Court.

The Monroe City Council is expected to adopt a resolution on Tuesday, April 12, that accepts the Washington State Growth Management Hearings Board's (GMHB) recent determination of invalidity by discontinuing further pursuit of the east Monroe rezone and declaring its intent to no longer seek the property's reclassification.

The decision was made based on the GMHB decision issued April 1, which remanded the east Monroe ordinances back to the city with a determination of invalidity due to noncompliance with the Washington State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) and RCW Chapter 43.21C. The GMHB order gave the city until Sept. 28, 2016 to come into compliance with the Washington State Growth Management Act (GMA).

This is the second time in less than two years the ordinances have been returned to the city as invalid.

It is up to the city to determine how it will come into compliance. A previous order by the board asserted that, "The Board's remedy is to remand the matter back to the city to take legislative action to comply with the GMA. The Board cannot dictate what specific action the city must take, nor can Heritage.GÇ¥

The matter was discussed briefly by the Monroe City Council on Tuesday, April 5. Councilmember Patsy Cudaback made a motion to direct city staff to draft a resolution disavowing the council's intent to proceed with the rezone and publicly declaring it considers the original application for rezone made by property owner and compliance participant Heritage Baptist Church-áto be effectively closed. The motion passed 5-2, with councilmembers Kevin Hanford and Ed Davis dissenting.

Hanford requested legal review to determine if Councilmember Kirk Scarboro should have recused himself from the vote. Scarboro, who was sworn into office in January, lives on the ridge north of the rezone property and has stated his opposition to the rezone on the record.

Hanford explained why he would not be voting in favor of the motion.

"Until that situation's been resolved, I don't think it's right for us to vote on that,GÇ¥ Hanford said. -á -á -á

Scarboro and other rezone opponents living on the ridge above the east Monroe property have been accused of wanting to protect their view, but the proposal was also widely opposed by members of the local farming community, former and current members of the planning commission and other long-time Monroe residents residing near downtown and other parts of the city.

Cudaback has been consistently opposed to the rezone proposal, never wavering from her stance that the property remain zoned Limited Open Space (LOS). She asked for closure, requesting the resolution disavowing the rezone to be brought back on Tuesday, April 12.

It appears it won't end there.

Legal counsel for Heritage Baptist Fellowship-áfiled a Motion for Stay with the GMHB on Friday, April 8, announcing their intent to file a Petition for Review with the Snohomish County Superior Court "as immediately as possible.GÇ¥ The motion argues the city has achieved compliance and the board's finding of invalidity should be reversed.

"In its appeal to the court, Heritage plans to assert that the Board erred in finding continued non-compliance and instead, the City has achieved compliance,GÇ¥ states the motion. "Thus, Heritage is requesting the Court to reverse the board's finding of invalidity and instead rule that the City's Ordinance Nos. 015/2015 and 016/2015 are valid.GÇ¥

There are two east Monroe rezone ordinances; one for the proposed Comprehensive Plan amendment and the other for the zoning map amendment. Heritage is requesting the court reverse the board's finding and validate the ordinances, faulting the city taking "hastyGÇ¥ action.

"The City's choices and actions appear to be separate and independent to the issue of whether the board had properly interpreted or applied the law or whether it acted within its authority,GÇ¥ the motion states.

According to the motion, without a stay of the compliance proceedings, Snohomish County Superior Court and the GMHB would have conflicting jurisdictions during the appeal process. Should the court find in favor of Heritage, they argued, it would eliminate the need for the compliance hearing and the rezone ordinances would be legal.-á -á

The motion anticipates objections from the petitioners.

"Heritage recognizes that the other parties in this case have invested a great deal of emotional energy and may object to this Motion for Stay. However, Heritage has expended not only emotional energy but also considerable financial resources towards the rezone of the East Monroe Property,GÇ¥ it states. "Any inconvenience alleged by the parties in postponing the proceedings should not be deemed a substantial harm and does not compare to the great detriment that Heritage will suffer if it is deprived of the opportunity to obtain judicial review and relief.GÇ¥

Petitioner Misty Blair planned to file an objection to the Motion for Stay on Monday, April 11.


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