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Home » Archives » March 2009 » Supreme Court On CAO Appeal

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03/12/2009: "Supreme Court On CAO Appeal"


In what is being called by property rights advocates as “a tremendous victory for property rights", the Washington Supreme Court refused last week to hear an appeal of a Court of Appeals decision invalidating King County’s Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO).

This decision lets stand the lower court’s decision and will, according to the Pacific Legal Foundation, provide relief to rural property owners who were denied use of their property by the King County CAO.

It potential may have an impact on the draft work being done by the advisory committee in San Juan County that is working on an update to the County CAO

The Court of Appeals ruled King County’s CAO violated the state law which prohibited a “tax, fee or charge” on land use regulations.

The King County CAO prohibited land owners from using up to 50 to 65% of their rural land by requiring clearing restrictions to maintain “native” vegetation on 50 to 65 percent of a parcel. The Court of Appeals ruled -and the Supreme has let stand- a county does not have authority to enact wide-sweeping restrictions on private property.

King County’s argument was not helped by the fact their own internal studies stated the CAO was not necessary for protection of the environment and the health and safety of the public.

The Pacific Legal Foundation brought the case on behalf of rural property owners in Washington State, with the assistance of BIAW’s Legal Trust Committee.

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