Owners of the North Shore Golf Course and its prospective developers have sued the City of Tacoma, saying the city illegally denied a proposal to build hundreds of homes over the course in Northeast Tacoma.
The lawsuit, filed this week in Pierce County Superior Court, seeks more than $22 million in damages. Its filing essentially reactivates a previous suit that a judge dismissed until the groups had exhausted all “administrative remedies” available through city land-use processes.
In the suit, attorneys for Northshore Investors LLC and North Shore Golf Associates Inc. say the city employed an “unlawful strategy to affect, prevent, or delay the development.”
Among its contentions, the suit says the city placed “unlawful” and “irregular” conditions on the developers’ land use applications and undertook excessive legal and administrative actions to stop the project.
The lawsuit also specifically cites Tacoma City Councilman Jake Fey, saying he arranged and advocated for an effort in early 2007 that resulted in a city-enacted moratorium as a strategy to prevent the project. Due to Fey’s alleged bias, the suit contends he should have recused himself from voting on issues related to the project.
The lawsuit comes three weeks after council members, including Fey, voted to uphold part of a hearing examiner’s ruling from January that denied virtually all aspects of the project.
“Once the City Council issued its decision three weeks ago, we had exhausted all our administrative remedies,” making the lawsuit viable, said Aaron Laing, attorney for the developers.
City Attorney Elizabeth Pauli declined comment, saying it’s her practice not to publicly speak about pending litigation.
The lawsuit is the latest development in a four-year saga over the controversial project that led to a spate of legal actions and formation of Save NE Tacoma, a residents opposition group now numbering into the hundreds.
In 2006, with the golf course’s popularity waning, its owners struck a deal with the developers, saying they could not find any buyer to maintain the golf course.
As part of its plans for “The Pointe at Northshore” – a sprawling housing development to be built in phases over six years – the developers submitted land-use applications in early 2007. It sought to build 366 houses and 494 town houses over the 116-acre golf course.
A day after the applications were filed, the city enacted an emergency moratorium on such projects. The city later deemed the Northshore application incomplete and subject to the moratorium.
A hearing examiner later required the city to process the application. The golf course owners and prospective buyers also sued, saying city officials illegally plotted to stop the project. A judge dismissed the suit due to timing issues, saying it could be re-filed later after all administrative remedies had been exhausted.
To build the subdivision, the developers had sought a zoning modification. A hearing examiner, and later the council, denied that effort this year.
Before the council decided the matter, Laing legally challenged Fey’s vote, contending the councilman was biased and therefore ineligible to vote under the state’s “appearance of fairness doctrine.” The law prohibits elected officials from any pre-judgment of quasi-judicial decisions, such as land-use rulings.
Fey’s vote did not change the outcome. The council voted 8-0.
Lewis Kamb: 253-597-8542 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/politics