A Pierce County Superior Court judge has sided with a group of Lakewood homeowners by ruling that a proposed 66-unit apartment complex can’t be built in their neighborhood because their homeowners association covenants and restrictions prohibit it.
The ruling comes despite the city of Lakewood saying the project is allowed under previous zoning that permitted multifamily housing in the area.
The land in question was once owned by the Oakbrook Golf and Country Club.
Attorneys for developer Jake Sampson filed a motion this week asking Superior Court Judge Bryan Chuschoff to reconsider his March 6 decision. A hearing date is set for April 10 at 9 a.m.
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One of Sampson’s attorneys would not comment this week about the the judge’s ruling or the reconsideration request.
Sampson’s proposal would build apartments on 2.83 acres at 7701 Ruby Drive SW between Ruby and Zircon drives. The neighborhood’s covenants and restrictions, in place since 1966, stipulate that if residential lots are ever developed, they must be with single-family homes.
Attorneys for the homeowners say Sampson was made aware of the development restrictions when he purchased the property in 2014.
At the time, however, the city didn’t allow for the development of single-family homes in that area. It only allowed multifamily housing, the result of a zoning change made in 2000 to accommodate population growth.
It is not the city’s responsibility to enforce neighborhood associations’ private covenants and restrictions, said David Bugher, Lakewood’s assistant city manager for development and community development.
But by changing the zoning 15 years ago, the city created a situation “where the owner could not develop the property at all,” said attorney Dianne Conway, who represented the homeowners.
Lakewood has since returned the zoning to single-family.
The change came at the end of 2014 with updates to the comprehensive plan. Oakbrook residents petitioned the city’s various planning committees and City Council to make the change, saying the multifamily designation was not compatible with the surrounding neighborhood.
The change has left Sampson and his project in limbo.
Lakewood issued a demolition permit last summer allowing Sampson to remove tennis courts, a swimming pool and pool house on the property. The land is now empty except for some demolition debris.
A site development permit is needed before Sampson can begin construction. The city is waiting on final landscaping plans and a tree preservation report from Sampson, Bugher said.
“When he complies with all the terms of the building permit process, the city will issue the necessary permits,” he said. “Nobody has required the city of Lakewood to halt issuance of permits.”
If he receives the city permits and the judge doesn’t change his position, Sampson will violate a court order if he tries to build.
That leaves him two options: formally cancel his application with the city, which means he would be refunded the dues he’s already paid, or let the permits expire.
Both scenarios mean Sampson would have to start over with a new project.