​Assisting Developer Clients Survive in Economic Downturn

When the Chelan County Hearing Examiner approved a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for a large scale subdivision and condominium project for a low density area on the south shore of Lake Chelan, local property and business owners turned to the land use lawyers at Socius Law Group for assistance. Thus began a protracted, five year legal battle that started in Chelan County Superior Court, traveled to the Court of Appeals (Div. 3), with a detour to the Washington State Supreme Court, before finally being returned to and resolved by the Court of Appeals. After successfully challenging a related permit (a shorelines substantial development permit for a marina) the Socius attorneys focused on the developers attempt to claim a vested right to develop their project under the prior, more lenient, development codes, noting that the project applicant had strung the project along for more than 15 years before obtaining its initial approval from the Hearing Examiner. In the interim, the Chelan County land use codes had changed substantially to reduce the allowable density and require greater protections for the area. The Socius legal team was able to convince the Superior Court that the original application for the proposed project had never complied with the codes in effect at the time of the application, and that the application therefore did not qualify for protection under the vested rights doctrine. The Court of Appeals agreed. The project applicant still has the right to develop their property, but under more restrictive codes, which will lead to a development more compatible with the character of the community.