Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Submit Comments Now On "One Home Per Lot" Proposed Ballot To Notify Neighbors Of Upcoming Land Use Decisions

House at 4812 NE 40th Street built on small side yard oringially part of home next 

One Home Per Lot, a city-wide grassroots group monitoring large homes built on side and backyards of existing homes, is urging citizens to submit comments to State Legistature regarding a new Bill, "House Bill 2311" proposed by Washington State Representatives Gerry Pollet and Gael Tarleton to ensure that land use decisions affecting neighborhoods are made with notice to neighbors. 

House Bill 2311 would require that cities with a population of 500,000 or more (that means Seattle, and Seattle only), must adopt regulations and procedures for providing notice. Specifically, the city must "provide notice of the application to all adjacent landowners and residents and an opportunity to submit comments" regarding "land use decisions related to the preliminary short plat approval of a short subdivision or the approval of a boundary line adjustment."

Here are some other points included in the new Bill:
  • Declare that the Legislature finds that due process requires notice to be given to adjacent landowners and residents within 300 feet of specified land use decisions, and declares the Legislature’s intent that the Land Use Petition Act’s (LUPA) statute of limitations does not run until notice is provided in accordance with statute.
  • Add to LUPA a new date of issuance – i.e., the date that notice of certain land use decisions is effective – that must be considered in determining when LUPA’s 21-day statute of limitations begins to run.
  • Require cities with a population of 500,000 or more to provide notice to adjacent landowners and residents of the following: applications for approval and approval of boundary line adjustments, and applications for approval and approval of preliminary short plats of short subdivisions. Applies only to Seattle, where this is a serious problem.
  • Defines the term “adjacent landowners and residents” to mean owners, residents, and persons who are both owners and residents of real property located within 300 feet of property subject to approval of a proposed preliminary short plat of a short subdivision or boundary line adjustment.

One Home Per Lot's recent email says:

If you feel neighbors should be notified, we need you to email or call both Representatives Pollet and Tarleton. Thank them for proposing the bill, and let them know you support it. No convincing needed. We just need to show them there is great support within the city for this bill. They measure support based on the number of calls/emails they receive.

Here is a sample email the group wrote that can be sent to government representatives:

At the reading of the bill yesterday, a representative from the construction industry argued that Seattle already provides its citizens with notice. (Of course, citizens would have to be monitoring the DPD's website every day to receive such notice.)
Worst of all, because no notice is given to neighbors, many miss out on their only opportunity to protest or stop the construction of a backyard / side yard house: a LUPA lawsuit. (Under state law, LUPA lawsuits must be filed within 21 days of a backyard / side yard house project being approved. But, how can citizens be expected to file a LUPA suit within that timeline when they're never notified?)

One Home Per Lot told us although there is no formal comment period, as there is for many of the issues the City reviews, there is generally no comment period for legislation pending before the state legislature.

"The state legislature has not asked for comments. However, lobbyists from the development and construction industries will be lobbying the legislators, so citizens need to do the same. Comments should be sent sooner rather than later to show the legislators who proposed the bill that citizens support their efforts," the group added.

Representative Gerry Pollet can be reached at (360) 786-7886 or by email at Gerry.Pollet@leg.wa.gov.  And
Representative Gael Tarleton's phone number is (360) 786-7860 and email is Gael.Tarleton@leg.wa.gov.

Several skinny houses on small lost have sprouted up in Laurelhurst over the last few years, all the work of developer, Dan Duffus, who is well-known around the city for building the houses which are modern in style, tower over the established homes beneath them and don't fit in with the character of the neighborhood..

One is located at 4812 NE 40th Street in Laurelhurst, which sits on a piece of property 30 feet wide, and was segmented out of a side yard which was a total of only 80 feet wide. The house covers all the land, except for 10 feet of the house's previous yard.

John Taylor, who lives directly behind the new home, commented in a recent Seattle Times article, that looming presence over his back yard is like “a guard tower.” He said the neighbors had no notice from the city or the developer that a new house was being crammed in between two existing houses, on what had been the old house’s yard.

Nick Jenkins, another Laurelhurst resident, who lives next door to a tall, skinny house, has posted his experience going through the construction process and now living with one of these houses right next door to him. His blog post titled "There goes the neighborhood and yours may be next" can be found here
For more information on One Home Per Lot and background on the issues go here.

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