ARLINGTON The 17-year land-use dispute over Island Crossing took its first steps toward the Washington State Supreme Court June 28.
Representatives for Futurewise, the Stillaguamish Flood Control District and the Washington State Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development have petitioned the state Supreme Court to review the case.
The state Court of Appeals ordered May 29 to deny motions for reconsideration of its March 26 ruling, in favor of allowing the development of 110 acres of largely unused farmland bordered by Interstate 5 and Smokey Point Boulevard, northwest of Arlington.
While the state Court of Appeals is required to hear from appellants, the state Supreme Court may review such cases at their own discretion. Attorneys for the appellants had 30 days from the issuance of the state Court of Appeals order to file their petitions for review in the state Supreme Court. Opposing counsels may now file answers to those petitions with the state Supreme Court, within 30 days of those petitions being served.
Futurewise advocates control of growth and has represented the Pilchuck Audubon Society and Agriculture for Tomorrow in previous litigation of this issue.
Its not just about the long-term significance of this agricultural land, but also the importance of maintaining salmon habitat, said Tim Trohimovich, planning director for Futurewise.
Keith Scully, legal director for Futurewise, argued that the Court of Appeals had superseded the proper authority of the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board.
The growth board is meant to act as a check on the county, said Scully, who explained that the growth board is intended to examine the entire record to see if Snohomish County made clear factual errors in its decision. The Court of Appeals took away the growth boards authority to perform an independent review.
Henry Lippek, attorney for the Stillaguamish Flood Control District, echoed Trohimovichs concerns about the risk of flooding from filling in the flood plain with urban development.
Its poor public policy to allow such intense land use within even the fringes of the flood plain, Lippek said. Agricultural land is compatible with a flood plain, especially since limited flooding can benefit topsoil, but the more displacement you have in one area, the more damage youll incur in the remaining flood plain.
Washington State Assistant Attorney General Alan Copsey, speaking on behalf of CTED, explained that CTEDs primary concerns are not with Island Crossing itself, but with the precedents it could set regarding how agricultural lands are designated under the GMA. He argued that such designations must be area-wide, rather than parcel-by-parcel, to carry out the GMAs intent of preserving the needed amount of agricultural lands within Snohomish County.
If your primary criteria for other uses of land is money, then youll almost always find more valuable uses for that land than agriculture, Copsey said. But thats how millions of acres of vital agricultural lands have been lost already.
Dwayne Lanes auto centers have sought to set up a car dealership on the contested site for more than a decade. Lanes lawyer, Todd Nichols of Everett, asserted that the sites water and sewer capacities correspond to the GMAs characteristics of an urban growth area.
Its completely within the Growth Management Act, as interpreted by the state Supreme Court, said Nichols, who pointed out that the site is bounded by busy highways. Its at an interchange where urban growth is already occurring.
Nichols went on to cite the state Supreme Court decision from last summer that land use should defer to local governments.
Steve Peiffle, attorney for the city of Arlington, believes that previous decisions had second-guessed evidence supplied by Lane. Peiffle asserted that the state Court of Appeals March 26 ruling reflects this view.
Dwayne Lane had hired Higa-Burkholder Associates to conduct a land capacity study, but they were dismissed as hired guns, Peiffle said. The Court of Appeals determined that their findings still constituted evidence. You cant disregard someones testimony just because you dont like what they have to say.
Peiffle and Trohimovich agreed that the state Supreme Court could take as long as six to eight months to decide whether theyll even review the case.
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