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Lakewood neighbors file lawsuit to stop apartments

A group of neighbors has filed a lawsuit in Pierce County Superior Court to try and stop the development of an apartment complex in the middle of their Lakewood neighborhood on property formerly owned by a golf and country club.

The Oakbrook 4th Addition Homeowners Association filed suit Sept. 2 against Ruby 62 Holdings LLC.

The lawsuit claims the proposed development doesn’t fit the neighborhood and would violate the association’s bylaws that govern how property can be developed.

The proposal calls for a 66-unit complex on 2.83 acres between Ruby Drive and Zircon Drive. The neighborhood’s bylaws, in place since the 1960s, stipulate that if residential lots are ever developed, it must be with single-family homes.

Lakewood zoning calls for something different. When the city updated its comprehensive plan in 2000, it rezoned the property from single-family to multifamily to accommodate population growth.

That means developer Jake Sampson is now restricted to building multifamily housing unless he files for an exception, according to city building officials.

Dianne Conway, the attorney representing the neighbors, said they disagree that city zoning trumps association bylaws.

“The judge will ultimately make that call,” said Conway, an attorney at Gordon Thomas Honeywell in Tacoma.

The lawsuit asks a judge to rule only single-family development is allowed.

The city’s planning advisory board will discuss next month whether to recommend a zoning change for the land. Ultimately, the Lakewood City Council must approve zoning changes.

In any case, Sampson’s apartment project wouldn’t be affected because he’s already applied for permits. A building permit hasn’t been issued, but applying was enough to vest the project, said city planner Dan Catron.

The property currently holds tennis courts, a swimming pool and a 1,200-square-foot building. The site was once part of the Oakbrook Golf and Country Club, but the club ran into financial trouble and sold the land.

The project would consist of four, three-story buildings, a multipurpose building and 121 parking stalls. The building at 7701 Ruby Drive SW would be 40 feet tall.

The neighborhood already has other multifamily housing, including townhouses and two-story condominiums next door. But homeowners are worried about building heights, increased traffic and a loss of recreational space if the tennis courts and pool are replaced by apartments.

Bryce H. Dille, attorney for Sampson, said the existing multifamily dwellings in the neighborhood show that Oakbrook residents didn’t previously oppose such developments.

Because it allowed such violations of its bylaws to occur in the past, the neighborhood association can’t restrict them in the future, he told The News Tribune.

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