07/26/2005: "Guest Houses Only With Permits Prior 2000"
Throughout the County, people have built a guest house first with plans to build a main house later. In 2001, thirty people appeared before the Growth Board and asked the Growth Board to clarify its rulings to allow them to continue with those plans. The Growth Board issued a Clarifying Order in 2001, which the county implemented by allowing construction of a main house in the few circumstances where a structure that qualified as a guest house already existed on the property. Gaylord said that decision, by a different Growth Board, was based upon a fair approach that honored the reliance by citizens backed by investments in their property.In 2004, the Friends of the San Juans, Lynn Bahrych and Joe Symons objected to the 2001 Clarifying Order and the county's interpretation of that ruling. On July 21, 2005, the Growth Board said that the 2001 Order is limited to those circumstances where the vested rights doctrine applied.
But now another ruling from the Growth Board on the construction of a guest house states that only people with a "vested right" may build a guest house or construct a main house on property with an existing guest house. "This decision closes the door for a few people who had built a guest house first and planned to build a main house later," said Prosecutor Randall K. Gaylord. "In the big picture, there are few people who will be affected by this decision, but for those people the decision is harsh," said Gaylord.
According to Gaylord, the "vested rights doctrine" requires a person to have filed a complete application for a building permit for the main house and the guest house before November 30, 2000. "Simply showing a guest house on a plot plan is not sufficient," said Gaylord.
The Growth Board observed that the larger issue of detached guest house construction is on appeal to the court of appeals in Tacoma and that a decision is expected soon. The case was submitted to the appellate court after oral argument on March 28, 2005. "A decision from the appellate court is expected any time in the next three months," said Gaylord.
Gaylord said he will meet with the Board of County Commissioners on August 9, 2005 to discuss whether to appeal this decision, or simply wait for the court of appeals' decision.