2023-10-16 Final Decision and Order

On October 16, 2023, our legal team of Bricklin & Newman, LLP and RG * NEW received a final decision and order from the GM Hearing Board. In summary, our appeal with the County’s updated Comprehensive Plan, Development Regulations was denied. You can read the 69 page  decision by following the above link.
RG * NEW’s hope to win this case truly rested in the Growth Management Act. We can see now that the GMA, which is referred to as the Land Use Bible, has the same issues as the Bible; it’s left open to individual interpretations.
The term “reasonable” when it comes to the environment needs further clarification and justification. In otherwords, the county won based on the minimal “reasonable” standards and not that they presented some great case. When it comes to the environment those standards need to be set high and kept high. In this decision they were not.
We’ve said for years that our system with regards to the environment and even in regards to responsible economic growth here in Pend Oreille County and throughout the state and nation is broken and we can’t fix it with legalize. It needs to be drastically altered and changed.
The County certainly did not bring its best game to the hearings, but then, they didn’t have to. The burden of proof was on RG * NEW. We brought our best game. However, our attorney was constantly interrupted by the GM Board chair throughout his 20 minute presentation at the hearing. We were disappointed that there were only two members of the GM board instead of the three that we were told would be there.
Unfortunately, the GM Hearing Board put too much faith in the broken “system” to protect the environment, wetlands, wildlife.  The “fundamental misunderstanding of the significant potential for damage and environmental harm only reflect the documents and not what is actually happening on the ground or what went on at the Planning Commission meetings.  The County doesn’t have the vision, the desire or the human or financial resources to take care of the environment and to be good stewards of the land.
When you read the decision you will see that RG * NEW did win on one of our issues and that was public participation. The decision stated that “It appears that it was unclear to the public what version of the Comprehensive Plan the Planning Commission was reviewing during the February-May 2021 Workshops. The Record shows the County was pretty messy with notice and minutes.”
Public participation is a critical issue, but apparently not critical enough. The County got a slap on the wrist for that GMA violation.

Obviously, RG * NEW is disappointed in the GM Hearing Board’s decision – disappointed but not discouraged. There was an option for us to appeal the GM Board’s decision to a state superior court, which mostly like would have been held in Thurston County. The RG * NEW Core Team voted to not pursue an appeal for a number of reasons. Not the least being – the broken system which exist here in Pend Oreille County and the anti-environmental stance supported by many public officials in favor of heavy industrialization.

There is no issue more serious than the protection of our environment, especially now that global warming is heating up. RG * NEW will continue in its mission of environmental public outreach and educational awareness. We will also work towards changing the broken system. We have already spoken to the POC Community Development Department to let them know RG * NEW wants a seat at the table when environmental issues are being discussed at the very least we want an invitation.