Point Wells

Providing Clarity for Development Pathway, the Washington State Court of Appeals Overturns King County Superior Court Decision

In a significant milestone in the proposed redevelopment of Point Wells, the Washington State Court of Appeals confirmed the vested status of the Point Wells Urban Center development application.  In so doing, the court reversed a 2011 ruling of the King County Superior Court in the case of Woodway v. Snohomish County. In this case, the King County Superior Court judge accepted the arguments of project opponents that the Point Wells Urban Center development application was not vested under Snohomish County’s Urban Center Code.  The judge therefore enjoined the County from further processing of the Point Wells Urban Center application until such time as the County issued supplemental environmental impact review documentation.

The January 7, 2013 ruling by the Court of Appeals  provides clarity regarding the “vested” status of the Point Wells Urban Center development application and enables the County to resume the review of the Point Wells development application.

The Court of Appeals applied the express language of Washington’s Growth Management Act to the effect that a complete development application is to be reviewed pursuant to the development regulations in place on the date a complete application is filed.  This ruling upheld Washington’s long established law that an application is “vested” to those regulations in effect on the date of filing of a complete project application.  The Court of Appeals decision noted that vesting occurs even when local comprehensive plan provisions and/or development regulations are subsequently found by the State’s Growth Management Hearings Board to not be in compliance with the State Environmental Policy Act.

The import of the Court of Appeal’s ruling was in part lessened by the recent determination by the Growth Management Hearings Board that Snohomish County had now complied with the requirements of the Board’s prior ruling that required, among other things, that additional environment impact review be conducted. 

GMHB Compliance Order

On February 6 and 7, 2013, the Town of Woodway and the community group Save Richmond Beach filed requests to the state Supreme Court asking that it review this decision of the Court of Appeals.  The Supreme Court is expected to take approximately four months to consider whether to accept the parties’ request to consider this appeal.  If accepted, the Supreme Court appeal process will likely take another year to reach final resolution.