Ordinance to create hearing examiner position in Eatonville heads to second reading

Eatonville is another step closer to getting a hearing examiner.

At its June 28 meeting, the Eatonville Town Council conducted the first reading of an ordinance creating a hearing examiner position to handle certain land use matters and adding a new Chapter 2.18 to Title 2 of the Eatonville Municipal Code to that effect.

Town attorney Gregory Jacoby explained that the ordinance only establishes the position of the hearing examiner.

“It does not appoint anyone to that position,” he said. “It does not change the current code as to rules and responsibilities, and certainly it presumes if you adopt this ordinance, the majority of the council is in favor of, down the road, amending the roles and responsibilities of the Planning Commission and Board of Adjustment and transferring some of those responsibilities, perhaps all. It’s up to the council.”

The first reading of the ordinance was not without its share of controversy, with one member of the council objecting to how the creation of the new office was proceeding and several others offering amendments to the ordinance.

Councilmember Robert Thomas said the ordinance, as written, allows the hearing examiner to define their own job and procedures.

“So, once again, we have Eatonville Town Council that’s about to vote on an ordinance that is not well thought out, discussed or hashed out,” he said. “Why aren’t we having a study session where we go through this ordinance line by line and hammer it out so it will make sense before we actually approve creating a funded position in our city government?”

Thomas described the process as “ready, fire, aim.” “I object to this in principle, if nothing else,” he concluded. Two council members proposed amendments to the ordinance that were passed.

Councilmember Bill Dunn proposed that appeals to a hearing examiner's decision be sent to the Eatonville Town Council for adjudication, not the Pierce County Superior Court, as well as making the hearing examiner position one that was confirmed by council. Councilmember Emily McFadden, who indicated her support for a study session as described by Thomas, proposed an amendment striking a section from the ordinance detailing a list of applications and appeals within the jurisdiction of the hearing examiner.

The second reading of the ordinance is scheduled for the July 12 Eatonville Town Council meeting. In other business, the town council amended and set the agenda for the July 6 meeting of the Planning Commission. The original agenda included reviewing Eatonville Municipal Code Chapter 18.08 — Accessory Dwelling Units, and a review of the commercial aspect of Chapter 19 of the code, Design Standards and Guidelines, was added.

The council also passed a resolution that repealed a previous one in its entirety and established fees to recover town costs for fingerprinting services: $10 for the first fingerprint card and $3 for each subsequent card.

Finally, Councilmember Jennie Hannah was elected as the mayor pro tem, and Bob Walter was elected alternate for the six-month term, beginning July 1 and ending Dec. 31.


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