Heritage Baptist seeks court ruling on East Monroe

The Monroe City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday, April 12, to delay taking action on the east Monroe rezone proposal, following a flurry of legal documents received by the city.

The Washington State Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB) issued its Order Finding Continuing Non-Compliance on April 1, which remanded the rezone ordinances back to the city with a determination of invalidity. The ordinances, passed in December 2015, rezoned 43 acres of property near the city's eastern boundary from Limited Open Space (LOS) to General Commercial (GC).

Legal counsel for property owner Heritage Baptist Church-áfiled a Motion for Stay with the GMHB on Friday, April 8, announcing the church's intent to seek review by the court. A Petition for Judicial Review of an Administrative Decision was filed on behalf of Heritage in Snohomish County Superior Court on Tuesday, April 12.

The petition alleges the board exceeded its authority, engaged in unlawful procedure and improperly engaged in the decision-making process. It requests that the court vacate the board's final order and decision and deem the rezone ordinances as valid.

Heritage attorney Duana Kolouskova addressed council during the time set aside for public comment. She urged the city to leave the "status quoGÇ¥ in place and allow Heritage to pursue its right to an appeal.-á

"We feel that it would be both appropriate and the best use of everybody's resources for Heritage Baptist to be allowed to pursue its appeal. It is a legal appeal, a right to superior court, just as anybody would have from any board's order,GÇ¥ Kolouskova said.


Councilmember Patsy Cudaback made a motion during the April 5 council meeting that directed city staff to bring forward a resolution on April 12 that would disavow the east Monroe rezone and publicly declare the application for rezone closed. Cudaback was absent last week due to illness, so councilmembers voted to delay taking action on the resolution.

Kolouskova cautioned council to consider city zoning code, which she said dictates what the council can and cannot do after it makes a rezone decision. Taking action on a resolution without following the same processes that have been followed in the past in terms of zoning is, "not something your zoning code readily provides for,GÇ¥ she said.

"We request that you carefully consider what your action might be and whether that is really both warranted or necessary at this time,GÇ¥ Kolouskova said.

Ashley Sellers implored the city to take action and put an end to the rezone. Monroe residents deserve closure, she said,including those that have fought long and hard against the rezone. She referenced a segment in the GMHB's recent order that acknowledged that while the petitioners weren't experts in environmental study, the arguments they presented were compelling.

Some of them have been fighting the rezone for 12 years, she said. -á -á

"They may not have an engineering degree, but they have a degree in getting their boots dirty and tearing up the ground and trying to figure it out,GÇ¥ Sellers said. "And sometimes that knowledge matters.GÇ¥

The city could use its resources on more worthy endeavors, she said.

"And let's also not forget that this property owner bought this property as Limited Open Space,GÇ¥ Sellers said. "It's not that the city is taking anything away.GÇ¥

Petitioner Misty Blair also addressed councilmembers, urging them to put an end to the rezone. Land use matters generally take a much longer period of time to traverse the court process than GMHB action, she said, meaning the matter could languish in the courts for months, if not, years.

"I personally do not live on the ridge. My property is not adjacent to it; I have no view involved in this,GÇ¥ Blair said. "I honestly just believe that from a planning perspective that this isn't the city's vision. It's somebody else's vision.GÇ¥

During Kolouskova's comments, she said the city would be in no jeopardy by leaving things the way they are. But later in the meeting, council voted to rescind a previously approved agenda item that accepted grant funding from the state, after Public Works Director Brad Feilberg explained that being out of compliance with the GMHB rendered them ineligible. Councilmember Jim Kamp made a motion to rescind and Councilmember Jason Gamble seconded the motion.

"I seconded the motion because I do think it's the appropriate action to take based on the feedback from Brad,GÇ¥ Gamble said. "But I think it just illustrates that we do need to resolve that issue of being in compliance in the very near future.GÇ¥

The Monroe City Council meeting for April 19 was cancelled.


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