Save the Trees-Seattle scored another victory in their battle to stop the Seattle School District from needlesssly destroying part of an uncommon plant habitat at Ingraham High. In their second appeal hearing before the Seattle Hearing Examiner, they again got a remand of the project proposal back to the Seattle Department of Planning and Development.
Earlier this year, Save the Trees-Seattle forced a remand of the Ingraham High School Addition back to the city because they had not looked at the impact of building the addition in an uncommon plant habitat, a conifer madrone forest habitat that the city law says should be protected. Specifically SMC 25.05.675 directs that “It is the city’s policy to minimize or prevent the loss of wildlife habitat or other vegetation which have substantial aesthetic, educational, ecological,and or economic value”.
The Seattle School District, rather than moving the project out of the conifer madrone rare plant association, instead slightly reduced the size of the project by removing an open courtyard and resubmitted the project to the city. DPD again approved the Project despite lacking any printed rules or guidelines as to evaluating its impact on the uncommon conifer madrone forest habitat.
Save the Trees-Seattle appealed the decision to the Seattle Hearing Examiner.
Save the Trees-Seattle in prehearing motions before Seattle Hearing Examiner Anne Watanabe argued that “DPD erred because it did not issue public notice of the revised School District application or provide a public comment period on the application, as required by SMC 23.76.012.”
In a quick ruling yesterday Watanabe noted that “It is undisputed that DPD did not provide notice or a public comment period on the revised application.”
Anne Watanabe’s ruling also noted that “The Code provides no exemption from the notice and public comment period requirements, even if the new application and resulting decision are in response to a Hearing Examiner decision.”
In conclusion Watanabe stated, “While it is regrettable to postpone resolution of issues raised in these appeals, the matter must be remanded to DPD to provide the required notice and comment period. “
Below is the relevant part of Keith Scully’s brief. Scully is a member of the Gendler Mann law firm and represented Save the Trees-Seattle.
“While SMC 23.76 does not spell out the requirements for public notice upon a remand and then redesign, SMC 23.76’s mandate to provide “notice of application and an opportunity for public comment” to the public with the intent to “promote informed public participation in discretionary land use decisions ” mandates a new public comment period on the District’s new design. Were the Examiner to hold otherwise, a project proponent could submit some outlandish proposal (a heliport in a residential zone, for instance), have it remanded, and then come up with a radically different design without any public comment on the new proposal. The new design and new decision in this case mandated a new notice of appeal and filing fee: it also mandates a new public comment period so other members of the public besides the appellants can have “informed public participation” in the discretionary review of the District’s new proposal”