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Court rules in Knight’s favor
Thompson Creek flows through Knight’s property, which is located near the proposed subdivisions. File photo/Nisqually Valley News
City, channeler disagree over significance
By Megan Hansen
Nisqually Valley News
Published: Friday, December 23, 2011 3:54 PM PST
Washington Supreme Court ruled Channeler JZ Knight had standing to oppose five area subdivisions, ending a four-year controversy.
The High Court reversed a Court of Appeals decision and upheld the Thurston County Superior Court ruling that said the city must prove it has enough water to support a development at Final Plat Approval and Building Permit Stage.
The court also ruled no party involved was awarded attorney’s fees or court costs.
“I am elated to know that the Supreme Court saw the potential harm to property owners who have legal rights to the aquifer that would serve these proposed developments,” Knight said in a prepared press release.
“This decision sends a clear message to municipalities who make land use decisions without due consideration of the consequences to people who will be adversely impacted, even when those people own property outside of their jurisdiction.”
Knight’s team sees the ruling as a landmark decision that addresses water and land use law in the state.
“I am very pleased that the court affirmed what JZ Knight has been saying since 2007 about the city’s failure to show water availability for proposed subdivisions,” said Keith Moxon, Knight’s attorney.
“The court not only agreed that Knight had the right to challenge the City of Yelm’s approval of these subdivisions, it agreed that the city failed to meet the water availability requirements of state law.”
“It’s a good day for citizens of the State of Washington when courts uphold the rights of private property owners to challenge unlawful land use decisions that endanger precious water resources.”
While the court ruled in favor of Knight, City of Yelm officials said it’s not much of a victory.
“While we are disappointed in the decision, we are relieved that the Supreme Court did not make any precedent-setting decisions related to how and when the appropriate provision for potable water supply be made,” Yelm Mayor Ron Harding said.
“Bottom line — this decision does nothing more than say that Knight had the right to file a lawsuit and because so, does not have to pay attorney fees.”
The Superior Court decision came down to “/or” in a hearing examiner’s preliminary approval of the subdivisions, which would bring more than 500 homes into the area.
Knight argued the development could harm her senior water rights and that the city should show proof of potable water at preliminary plat approval.
The hearing examiner said the city had to prove potable water at Final Plat Approval and/or building permit stage.
Yelm Community Development Director Grant Beck said the “/or” was included because some of the sites had binding site plans, but that the city regularly operates showing proof of water at both stages.
“The approvals were upheld with that change and the city didn’t have a problem with that,” said Yelm City Administrator Shelly Badger.
City of Yelm decided to join the developers involved with the case in appealing the decision because during the Superior Court case findings the city deemed “offensive and inaccurate” about its water rights were included in the decision.
The city kind of debated appealing the decision in Court of Appeals and going after attorney’s fees because “our mission was kind of done,” Beck said. “We knew it was a long shot.”
But the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the city, finding Knight didn’t have standing to oppose the developments and awarded the city and developers reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs. That’s the decision the Supreme Court overruled.
In the end, the suit has cost the city more than $132,000.
“At the end of the day the subdivisions are still approved with language from 2009,” Badger said. “A lot of public time and resources have been spent and we’re in the same place as 2008.”
“The city’s original preliminary plat approval of the five subdivisions was upheld by Superior Court, Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. The city’s process of determining adequate water supply at the preliminary stage was deemed appropriate.
And last but certainly not least, the city will make another determination of water availability at final subdivision approval as it is required to do by state law.”
http://www.yelmonline.com/articles/2011 ... 190047.txt
. (DEAD LINK)Political Buzz Talking WA politics. Washington Supreme Court gives JZ Knight a victory in her challenge of Yelm development Post by Peter Callaghan / The News Tribune on Dec. 15, 2011 at 8:31 am | December 15, 2011 9:23 am The case involved proposed subdivisions in Yelm next door to JZ Knight’s 80-acres estate. Knight, who holds what are known in state law as senior water rights, argued the city of Yelm could invade her rights in order to supply water to the new houses. The court, in a 7-2 vote, agreed with her and against the city. The case is big in property rights and water rights circles. But the interest grows beyond those areas because of the plaintiff. In his story on the case in May, The News Tribune’s Sean Robinson described her like this: “Knight is a wealthy New Age guru, spiritual adviser to stars, channeler (she claims) of a 35,000-year-old entity, world-famous founder of the Ramtha School of Enlightenment. She wields mystic power, some followers say.”JZ Knight (Steve Bloom photo, 2009) The decision ends, for now, a four-year legal battle over a proposal to build 568 houses – a 20 percent growth in Yelm’s housing stock. Here is Justice Charlie Wiggins’ summary of the 7-2 decision that tops the majority opinion released this morning. “In 2007, five developers filed applications with the city of Yelm (City) for preliminary plat approval of proposed subdivisions. The only developer still party to this action, TTPH 3-8 LLC (Tahoma Terra), sought approval to develop 32 acres into residential lots. “After a hearing examiner granted Tahoma Terra preliminary plat approval, JZ Knight, a nearby property owner and senior water rights holder, appealed to the Yelm City Council (City Council), arguing the hearing examiner’s conditional approval of the plats erroneously allowed the developers and the City to delay showing adequate water provisions for the subdivision until the building permit stage. The City Council affirmed the preliminary plat approvals, and Knight filed an action in Thurston County Superior Court under the Land Use Petition Act (LUPA), chapter 36.70C RCW. This court must decide whether Knight had standing to bring the LUPA action. “We hold that Knight established that the land use decision is likely to prejudice her water rights and satisfies the statutory standing requirement. We reverse the Court of Appeals.”
Read more here: http://blog.thenewstribune.com/politics ... rylink=cpy
They way I read this, in the end, if the city finds and offers enough water, the subdivision goes ahead anyway. In this poor housing market, it may have been fortuitous that building was delayed. My hunch is that if the market loosens up, JZ n Co may even invest in the new subdivision, or may decide to "sell" water rights to allow it. When it comes to JZ, we follow the money.And last but certainly not least, the city will make another determination of water availability at final subdivision approval as it is required to do by state law.”
I read the original complaint, and it didn't make much sense to me, but then I don't live right there and I'm no lawyer. If the developer were to pay tribute money to JZK, I bet it would be over with. I think this is a case of, "green washing," by JZK where they get to do some chest thumping and claim they're all warm and fuzzy for the environment, but in reality it isn't anything at all.
I think it is noteworthy that the state supreme court didn't award attorneys' fees. In other words, both sides were right. Judy has standing and City of Yelm the the right to go forward with the development if/when the city does the necessary studies (which they probably should have done right the first time).
Judy thinks she shows the city who is boss. It would be cool if the city would do something like start having summer tractor pulls on the high school grounds to raise a little cash (to pay off that $132,000 they spent jousting with Judy).
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I'm sure they would have shut her down by now, or at the very least forced her to abide by the environmental, health and safety regulations every other business has to comply with.hope the city of yelm starts to look into the details of her operation. her parking lot close to the creek, running a campground......
Unfortunately RSE is just outside Yelm City limits and comes under Thurston County jurisdiction whose officials have proven to be corrupted cowards.