Thursday, September 13, 2012

Countdown To CAOmageddon: Flaw #41 - Planning Purgatory

The County has come out with a new website to help us understand the facts. The trouble is that it should be called the "half-truth" checker. The current post has to do with the Consignment Treasures situation described in the previous post, and that story dovetails to the CAOs. It illustrates how easily a property can end up in planning purgatory even when the County "didn't do anything."

The new County webpage says that the Council hasn't done anything to "restrict the currently approved operations" of Consignment Treasures. Fair enough, but the Council passed an ordinance which changes Consignment Treasures to a non-conforming use. The non-conforming use status does have potential implications for Consignment Treasures. This is what the Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington says:
The right to continue a nonconforming use despite a zoning ordinance that prohibits that use in that zone is sometimes referred to as a vested right. Rhod-A-Zalea v. Snohomish County, 136 Wn.2d 1, 6 (1998). Though, this right in the context of a nonconforming use refers only to the right not to have the use immediately terminated in the face of a zoning ordinance that prohibits it. Id.
"The right not to have the use immediately terminated." That's what it says, and that's not exactly "live long and prosper." As the linked case shows, it may not immediately terminate the use, but it sets it up for termination down the road. Furthermore, no matter how "non-conforming" may be intended by the County, it is frequently interpreted by banks and insurance companies to mean that future operations are in doubt. Just try to get financing for continued or expanded operations when the banks think your future is in doubt.

This is how the County can be both technically correct and deceptive at the same time. In addition, some of the content on the fact checker may not even be technically correct. For instance, it says that "the Council ... has formally encouraged Consignment Treasures to apply to be declared an Essential Public Facility." Penwell, on the other hand, says that he's had no direct word from the Council on this matter. Also, Penwell says that his attorneys had provided wording and suggestions so that the non-conforming designation would not have been necessary. Apparently, no one in the County explored the Penwell alternative proposals.

What does any of this have to do with the CAOs? Plenty. Many of us will face the prospect of non-conforming designations as a result of the CAOs. With that will come multitudes of stories similar to  the developing story about Consignment Treasures. Namely, the County will be able to say that they haven't really done anything to us, but we will still be hobbled. That's planning purgatory.

That's the future for many of us under the CAOs.


  1. The nature of being a nonconforming use is so broad that it can mean almost anything--or nothing. What that means is that the powers that be can come down on anyone, or not. The "whimsical nature of tyranny indeed" What an apt quote.
    Interesting that the county has so much time and so many resources to dedicate to "message management" No funds, apparently, to maintain regular counter hours, but let someone accuse the county of unseemly behavior and watch the employee hours stack up scrambling to spin and dissemble. This county has a crisis of legitimacy that can only be solved with a thorough, top end house cleaning.

  2. This is part of a much larger picture being played out in counties and cities across the is not unique to SJC....look at the pattern everywhere of increasing land use regulation and scorn for private property rights; , more land held "in public trust" and less under private ownership; use of eminent domain to condemn land for "re-development"; frequent talk in the media about various environmental "crises" with very little real science to back it up; talk about the "need" to reduce world population by 80-90% but not how they plan to do it;, and talk of a "new world order" by politicians but no explanation of what they mean;; talk of food shortages and spiring food prices while they simultaneously try to flood more ag land for fish (Snohomish County) UN Agenda 21 and read how they are implementing it locally through NGO's like Puget Sound Partnership & related orgs

  3. Let's be frank, no pun intended--Frank is being paid back for his politics, plain and simple. His "representatives," Pratt and Rosenfeld, are radical left Democrats. Frank argues on behalf of property rights under the Constitution, and has been critical of the people trying to shove the new CAO down our throats. We're all adults here--let's admit the obvious.

  4. Remember those old Perry Mason episodes... "But ma'am, isn't it true ..."

    "The witness certainly believes, and swears under oath you are lying ma'am. Ma'am, isn't it true you unfairly used an ambiguous land use law you enacted to exact revenge on your political enemies?"

    "Ma'm isn't it true your own prosecuting attorney compelled you to recuse voting on a matter due the conflicts of interest you created?"

    "Ma'am. You have sworn an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing buy truth? What's that you say? You believe your religious convictions allow you from avoiding to take an oath for any reason? Your honor, I move you find this witness in contempt."

  5. Frank Penwell has filed more argument and research than almost anyone on these islands. His reps are not Rosenfeld and Pratt, who near as I can tell rep almost no one. Even with nightly pillow talk Rosenfeld has learned almost nothing from his far more astute spouse...the Mayor of Friday Harbor. Pratt sold out her only following, the AG folks, with her vote to cede local control to just about anybody but us.

    But I digress. Frank Penwell is well represented in his District by Rich Peterson who voted against all this nonsense. Unfortunately Mr. Peterson has long since been isolated from the majority of Council members by a very successful coup d'etat led by a huge broadside against Peterson's very reasonable idea that we County people should get credit for a job well done!

    HELL NO! Said Pratt and Rosenfeld, all that we have accomplished before means nothing.

    So we have the current situation.

    Not good, in my view.