Superior Court appeal success for SWC on critical legal issue

A King County Superior Court judge has upheld conditions imposed for Warehouse A by the City of Federal Way’s Hearing Examiner. In his June 10, 2020, ruling, Judge Michel Ryan dismissed IRG’s appeal, decidedly rejecting the company’s contention that its projects are entirely exempt from cumulative effects review if they are not legally “interdependent.”

As a result of Judge Ryan’s ruling, the City of Federal Way must consider cumulative impacts of IRG’s three proposed warehouse developments (five warehouses total) on the historic Weyerhaeuser corporate campus in making its decisions on any one of them.

“This is a major victory for Save Weyerhaeuser Campus (SWC) supporters and the Federal Way community and it will positively affect all of IRG’s proposed development on this iconic property,” said SWC President Lori Sechrist.

“For nearly four years, we’ve fought for responsible development,” Sechrist said. “It is immensely gratifying to have the Superior Court agree that the entirety of traffic and environmental impacts must be considered and mitigated as appropriate.”

Although Judge Ryan dismissed both IRG’s and SWC’s appeals, he upheld the following critical conditions, challenged by IRG, that SWC won in 2019 as a result of appealing the City of Federal Way’s land-use decision for Warehouse A:

The city must consider the cumulative effects of all three projects. Certain cumulative impacts on traffic, at the Weyerhaeuser Way/Highway 18 interchange, were significant and not adequately mitigated. A cumulative traffic analysis and determination of mitigation must be done, in cooperation with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), which has jurisdiction over the interchange.

The city failed to consider and must comply with the requirements of The Executive Proposed Basin Plan Hylebos Creek & Lower Puget Sound, King County Surface Water Management, July 1991 (Hylebos Basin Plan), which includes important protections for water quality, wetlands, and salmon habitat.

What’s next?

  • Before Warehouse A can move ahead, it must obtain a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which will include a review of impacts to the historic resources of the campus. The Corps is in the process of reviewing the permit application; the historic review is expected to take at least a year once it has begun. There are also new appeal opportunities when the city considers issuing the building permit.
  • IRG’s proposed Warehouse B, which would adjoin Warehouse A, will be subject to similar and potentially additional requirements, based on differences from Warehouse A, new circumstances or further evidence.
  • The Greenline Business Park, a three-warehouse project on the north end of the campus, is expected to face tougher scrutiny regarding visual impacts to the historic corporate headquarters building and its greater impacts on wetlands and water quality.

Your continued support is needed. Save Weyerhaeuser Campus is continuing its fight for responsible development on the iconic property and conservation of the campus’ North Lake shoreline. We are staying connected with other stakeholders and working with the City of Federal Way, the Washington State Department of Transportation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to ensure IRG projects meet all conditions required.

Read the full ruling here.


Awaiting judge's decision after April 24 superior court hearing

Save Weyerhaeuser Campus attorney Rick Aramburu gave a strong presentation of SWC's arguments in the Warehouse A appeal during an April 24 videoconference hearing before Judge Michael K. Ryan in King County Superior Court.

During the hearing, which lasted 3-1/2-hours, Judge Ryan seemed to be well-versed in the complexities of the issues at hand, and asked a lot of questions of the parties involved -- SWC, Industrial Realty Group and the City of Federal Way.
SWC focused on what the high standards in Federal Way’s comprehensive plan mean for any development of the campus in terms of quality, design and function. Discussion also centered on the issue of assessing and mitigating the cumulative effects of all five warehouses proposed by IRG, not just Warehouse A. These include traffic, stormwater, application of the Hylebos Basin Plan, and historical significance.

On May 1, the three parties submitted proposed orders for Judge Ryan to consider. His decision could come as soon as two or three weeks after that.

 


Legal briefs filed for April 24 Warehouse A hearing in King County Superior Court

A hearing via Skype in SWC's appeal of the Warehouse A decision has been set for April 24 before Judge Michael K. Ryan in King County Superior Court.

Save Weyerhaeuser Campus has filed a Land Use Petition Act (LUPA) action in King County Superior Court (see legal briefs below). The legal action seeks to have the Warehouse A decision of the Federal Way Hearing Examiner sent back to the city for further study and mitigation of the traffic, environmental and other harm that will be caused by the cumulative impacts of five massive warehouses proposed by Industrial Realty Group, the current owner of the campus.

IRG has filed its own appeal of the Hearing Examiner decision, seeking to overturn the portion of the examiner's ruling last fall that says cumulative impacts of the developments must be considered, even though IRG has divided its development plan into three pieces.

The City of Federal Way, named as a party in IRG's appeal, has filed its own brief.

Read the arguments filed by Save Weyerhaeuser Campus, Industrial Realty Group (Federal Way Campus) and the City of Federal Way:

Save Weyerhaeuser Campus legal briefs:

Opening brief, 3-16-2020

Opening brief Appendix A, Appendix B-1 and Appendix B-2

Reply brief, 4-16-2020

 

Industrial Realty Group legal briefs:

Opening brief, 3-16-2020

Reply brief, 4-16-2020

 

City of Federal Way legal brief:

City of Federal Way brief, 4-07-2020

 

You can support Save Weyerhaeuser Campus' legal advocacy with a donation of any amount

Save Weyerhaeuser Campus is a 501(c)(3) organization: EIN 81-3674786

 


 

SWC, IRG each file Warehouse A actions in King County Superior Court

Save Weyerhaeuser Campus is asking a King County Superior Court judge to reverse some Warehouse A conditions imposed by the hearing examiner for Federal Way and/or send the case back to the city for further proceedings. A preliminary hearing is expected in January.

The suit against Federal Way Campus LLC (Industrial Realty Group) and the City of Federal Way was filed Sept. 18 under the state’s Land Use Petition Act (known as LUPA).

The conditions were imposed by Phil Olbrechts, the city’s hearing examiner for Federal Way, as a result of SWC’s Warehouse A appeal and motion for reconsideration.

SWC alleges several errors in Olbrechts’ decisions, including:

  • Not requiring cumulative environmental review for IRG’s 5 warehouses on the campus
  • Not requiring an Environmental Impact Statement for the projects
  • Not requiring cumulative impact analysis under Federal Way codes and regulations
  • Determining that the requirements of the Hylebos Basin Plan are subordinate to the city codes and the 1994 Concomitant Zoning Agreement that specifies zoning for the campus
  • Concluding that the proposal met the standards of the city’s comprehensive plan
  • Concluding that cumulative impact analysis was sufficient to meet local code and State Environmental Policy Act (SEPTA) standards.
  • Determining that he does not have the authority to send the case back to the city

Read the complete filing.

 


IRG seeks reversal of hearing-examiner conditions on Warehouse A

Industrial Realty Group subsidiary Federal Way Campus LLC has filed suit in King County Superior Court against the City of Federal Way and Save Weyerhaeuser Campus. IRG is seeking to overturn the additional transportation and environmental conditions placed on the Warehouse A project by the city hearing examiner as a result of SWC’s Warehouse A appeal and motion for reconsideration.

The suit, filed Sept. 18, names the City of Federal Way as respondent and Save Weyerhaeuser Campus as an “additional party.”

Under the state’s Land Use Petition Act, known as LUPA, IRG is seeking judicial review of the decisions issued by Phil Olbrechts, Federal Way’s hearing examiner. IRG claims the additional transportation and environmental conditions ordered by Olbrechts constitute unlawful procedure, failure to follow prescribed process, erroneous interpretation of the applicable law, a decision not supported by substantial evidence, erroneous application of the law to the facts and rendering a decision outside the examiner’s authority or jurisdiction.

IRG is asking that the conditions be reversed and the original land-use and environmental decisions made by the city staff be upheld.

IRG is also seeking “award of [IRG’s] attorney fees and costs against SWC, as may be provided by law.”

Read the complete filing.