A unanimous court decision reversed an earlier ruling of the Washington Court of Appeals Division II today, holding that lands annexed to the cities of Ridgefield and Camas would remain annexed. In 2007, the Clark County Board of County Commissioners adopted new Urban Growth Areas (“UGAs”) for six of Clark County’s seven cities. John Karpinski and Futurewise challenged the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board (“Growth Board”) over the inclusion of several parcels throughout the various cities for the improper de-designation of formerly designated resources lands (primarily agricultural). Before the Growth Board could issue a decision many parcels were annexed to the cities of Ridgefield and Camas along with accompanying development agreements. No party challenged the validity of the annexations.
The Growth Board ended up invalidating portions of the county’s Comprehensive Plan, proclaiming the county improperly de-designated some of the parcels. The Growth Board remained unaware of the annexations. Several other challenges followed in Clark County Superior Court whereby Futurewise stipulated in one instance and argued that they would not be appealing the lands that were annexed. The Clark County Superior Court judge ruled that the two of the areas that were overturned by the Hearings Board were annexed and effectively moot. The Superior Court also ruled that one of the annexed property had also been properly de-designated.
At this point, there were still many other properties under dispute and the case went up to the Division II Court of Appeals. After the briefing had been completed, the Court of Appeals sent a letter to the cities of Ridgefield and Camas requesting that they submit answers to a series of questions aimed at directing the court to authority for annexing the lands during the pendency of an appeal. This letter was not sent to the annexed property owners.
When the decision was issued by the Court of Appeals addressing numerous parcels throughout the County it also announced a sua sponte (of its own accord) decision that the Growth Board still had jurisdiction over the annexed lands even though no party had raised it as an appeal issue. This is the issue that went up on appeal to the Washington Supreme Court.
Seven of the justices held that the Court of Appeals improperly issued an opinion related to the annexed properties since no parties raised it as an issue and had in fact resolved it through the stipulation or affirmative statements that they thought the issues were moot. In a concurring opinion, two of the justices stated that the issue was moot when the lands were annexed.
On a personal note, two of the annexed areas under question were clients of our firm and we thank them for their patience and persistence in achieving this result.