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Northwest Land Matters Update - February 2016

February 18, 2016

Washington Streamlines Business Entity Administrative Requirements

Jenna Mandell-Rice

The Uniform Business Organizations Code (“Act”), which went into effect on January 1, 2016, makes a number of changes to the laws affecting business entities in Washington State. The Act, commonly known as the “Hub Bill,” consolidates common legal requirements for all entity types and is intended to simplify the administrative processes for forming, maintaining, and dissolving business entities. Affected entity types include business corporations, nonprofit corporations, limited liability partnerships, limited partnerships, limited liability companies, and general cooperative associations.

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Vested Rights Include Stormwater Regulations

After a string of court decisions rolled back common law vesting, Division II of the Court of Appeals has issued a vesting decision that provides some relief to the development community. In Snohomish County v. Washington PCHB and Wash. Dep’t of Ecology, the Court held that stormwater regulations are land use control ordinances under vested rights statutes so that Ecology’s 2013-2018 Municipal Stormwater Permit only applies to those completed applications submitted after July 1, 2015.

Under RCW 58.17.030, a preliminary plat or short plat must be considered under the land use ordinances in effect at the time the complete application was filed. Ecology argued, however, and the Pollution Control Hearings Board agreed, that new stormwater regulations adopted by municipalities to comply with the federal Clean Water Act and Ecology’s 2013-2018 Phase I Municipal Stormwater Permit, must be imposed on subdivisions not yet built, even if that subdivision had vested by filing a complete application before the new Municipal Stormwater Permit was issued. Snohomish County successfully argued that stormwater regulations were “land use control ordinances” to which vested rights applied and that Ecology could not impose a requirement in its Municipal Stormwater Permit that conflicted with state vesting law. The Court also rejected Ecology’s argument that the federal Clean Water Act preempts the state’s vested rights doctrine. Judge Bjorgen’s dissent, focusing on federal preemption, highlights what we may see in a petition for review to the State Supreme Court.

Ninth Circuit Rules No Substantial Burden When Church Could Relocate or Submit Modified Application

On December 18, 2015, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Mesquite Grove Chapel v DeBonis issued a ruling that provides municipalities with some greater protections and imposes greater burdens on religious institutions under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). The Chapel was denied land use permits on property zoned for church use by the County’s zoning inspector on the basis that the use did not meet the definition of a “church.” The Inspector’s decision, affirmed by the County’s Board of Adjustment, was upheld by the District Court and 9th Circuit. The Court ruled that the Inspector’s decision was not arbitrary and that Chapel had filed to show that its right to religious exercise under RLUIPA was substantially burdened because Chapel had failed to present any evidence that other sites were unsuitable.


Sale of Weyerhaeuser’s Federal Way campus means more intensive development

Conservation can likely meet power needs of Northwest states

Mountain snowpack above normal across Washington state

Industrial real estate isn't sexy, but in Seattle it sure is hot


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