City, Cascade Land Conservancy Sued Over Removal Of Bulkheads

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by Ralph Nichols

A lawsuit filed by a long-time area family against the City of Normandy Park and the Cascade Land Conservancy seeks to block removal of bulkheads they say protect their home and property.

The complaint alleges that attempts by the city and the conservation group to remove the bulkheads are based on “dishonest and misleading representations to state and county funding agencies.”

It was filed in King County Superior Court by Brent Carson with GordonDerr – a Seattle law firm that focuses on land use, real estate and environmental law – on behalf of the Hadley family, which has owned their property for more than 70 years.

The case is scheduled for trial before Judge Cheryl Carey at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent in December 2012. Answers from the city and the Cascade Land Conservancy are due July 5. No discovery by attorneys has yet been schedules.

Carson charges that Normandy Park and the conservancy are improperly acquiring at least 26 parcels of property along the Puget Sound shoreline – known as Beaconsfield on the Sound – that impact the Hadley’s home and land.

“A key requirement of both the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the King County Conservation Futures programs is that any grant funds used for conservation projects can only be used to acquire property from willing land owners,” he noted in a news release.

But, the complaint contends, the Hadleys are not willing owners.

And, Carson told The Normandy Park Blog, the conservancy “and the city never communicated to agencies funding the acquisitions” the fact that “the Hadley family owns and has maintained the bulkheads.”

Yet “title reports for the sale of these properties, prepared for [the conservancy], clearly state that the Hadleys are the owners of these bulkheads, and it’s hard to see how [the conservancy] or the City could have missed that,” he added.

Lisa Hadley-Colmenares said in the news release, “This property has been in our family for three generations and we are shocked at the [conservancy] and City’s deceptions to us and to the various public funding agencies.

“Had the public funding agencies been made aware of our position, they might have used these valuable funding resources toward other projects that met their criteria. We absolutely support environmental responsibility, yet not at the expense of putting citizens’ lives at risk.”

Normandy Park City Manager Doug Schulze told The Normandy Park Blog last week, “I can’t say a whole lot about it.” The city had only recently been served with the lawsuit and “our city attorney is reviewing it and will appear on the city’s behalf.

“I can’t say a whole lot about it” – Normandy Park City Manager Doug Schulze.

“But at this point I have not even received a briefing on what the lawsuit entirely entails,” Schulze said. “Basically it is related to a project the city has been involved in since 2003 or 2004 on an ongoing acquisition” of properties.

“The city had no discussions with the Hadleys of the Colmenares regarding this issue prior to the filing of the suit,” he added. “Had there been discussion, we may have been able to resolve a significant amount of the differences.”

Carson countered, however, that “the city is disingenuous when it says it has not had communication with the Hadleys. The city’s partner in these acquisitions, The Cascade Land Conservancy, communicated frequently with the Hadleys and the city was fully briefed.

He said internal city emails in 2008 “demonstrates that [the conservation group] and the city were fully aware of the Hadley’s intention not to sell.”

Carson added that this April he “communicated directly with Normandy Park City Attorney Jim Haney and general counsel for the conservancy and reiterated the Hadleys’ position. Neither attorney made any further attempts to discuss this matter with the Hadleys.

“Instead, the City continued to press forward with its acquisitions, forcing the Hadleys to take legal action.”

No monetary damages are being sought by the plaintiffs, who, Schulze noted, are looking “to quiet a title and for some prescriptive rights over some property.”

Carson said the owners of the properties in question granted bulkhead easements to the Hadleys in the 1950s, who built approximately 454 feet of concrete bulkheads.

“In the 1980s the City of Normandy Park granted permits to the Hadleys for additional shoreline protection and the Hadleys installed approximately another 371 feet of rock revetments.”

The city and the conservancy allegedly have been using state and King County funds to acquire property on the lower part of the Beaconsfield bluff, just below the Hadley family home.

“To date, over $1.4 million of taxpayer dollars and public funds have been used for the Beaconsfield on the Puget Sound Project,” Carson said.

“In early 2008, the Hadleys unequivocally communicated their decision not to sell their property or permit the removal of the bulkheads, and [the conservancy] informed the Hadleys that they would respect their wishes.”

“Long ago the legislature decided that the public interest is best served when working with the willing property owners,” he noted.

“Despite knowing that the Hadley family owned the bulkheads and were not interested in selling or having their bulkheads removed, the [conservancy] and the city of Normandy Park have represented to funders that acquisition of the properties further down the bluff, known as the ‘piano key,’ would give the city permission to take out the shoreline protection installed to reduce erosion of the hillside below the Hadley property.”

Yet the Cascade Land Conservancy “and the City never communicated the true owners of the bulkheads to Washington state or King County funders.”


2 Responses to “City, Cascade Land Conservancy Sued Over Removal Of Bulkheads”
  1. Lynn Walters says:

    How would you feel if one day you were browsing the web and you found your name & address in a government document that outlined a plan to take your property from you and demolish your house? What if that house and property had been in your family for 3 generations, and you just finished remodeling it into your dream home? That is what is happening here, and if you happen to be an owner of shoreline property you could be next.

    This issue is an absolute disaster. Not only is the City plotting against its taxpaying property owners, but it is totally hiding its agenda to take property from unwilling landowners and residents. The City and the CLC have already spent $1.4 million of our tax dollars to acquire properties that are useless and have no legal land access without trespassing on private property. They have paid $50,000 to $70,000 for properties that were assessed at $1,000 – how does that make you feel about expenditure of your tax dollars? Another $ 1.3 million is currently being requested, with a potential for increase to $2.6 million.
    There is a lot I could write about this issue, but here is a concise list of all the reasons the residents of Normandy Park and even residents of the State of Washington should be outraged by these actions, which when coupled with the new proposed shoreline master plan, constitutes an expensive and unnecessary list of projects that will have significant impacts not only to shoreline owners, but also all taxpayers and lot “A” owners in Normandy Park.

    • Is the science there to support the contention that salmon runs will increase as a result of this project? Where are the examples of successful projects and proof? If science is to be used as the criteria for taking properties to “save the salmon” then why not remove the Des Moines marina, which the reports cite as a significant impact to the salmon run due to it’s blockage of the northern drift of beach sand. Obviously it is easier to pick on individual property owners than a government run facility.
    • The banks in question appear to test as silt and not sand. Silt is actually detrimental to the propagation of eelgrass and will adversely affect the salmon run. Silt will turn the beach into a muddy mess, similar to many Southern Puget Sound areas.
    • Increasing the amount of beach park will only contribute to more human pollution to the beach with plastic bottles, and other waste that has been proven detrimental to the salmon population.

    Land taking from unwilling owners
    • It sounds as though some City Council members believe that taking properties from owners in our community will have no impact – but they are wrong. It impacts the property tax values of the properties around the area and reduces the number of taxable lots, reducing revenues to our schools and community services. (police and firefighters)
    • The Cascade Land Conservancy has an agenda to facilitate taking of land from unwilling sellers by getting City government involved. The CLC cannot use public grant $ for land taking, so they use deceptive practices to engage Cities to facilitate their agenda.
    • The proposed shoreline master plan will affect lot “A” owners with it’s proposal to remove the boat launch, and all the raised picnic areas along the shore. It would become a marsh.
    • Offers to purchase property from current owners will likely be way below the value the property should have, due to the current economic downturn and the reduced fair market valuations.
    • Current landowners are in the position of having to spend personal money to hire lawyers to defend their right to maintain ownership of property that is already theirs.

    How your tax dollars are to be spent
    • Significant increased tax funding will be required for maintenance of the park that would be created. It is my understanding that we cannot currently afford to properly maintain and police our current park areas.
    • Large amounts of money will be required to “take” the properties from the current owners, and pursue the taking of property from unwilling landowners in court.
    • There will be a loss of tax base by turning multi-million $ properties into parks without revenue.
    • High costs have already been paid for the piano key parcels at 50 times the assessed values.
    • Our tax $ should be allocated to support our schools & police and to dig us out of the current financial crises – not for more parks that we cannot maintain and police.
    • This has been a secret undertaking to keep residents unaware of the actions proposed and the costs they will sustain using public tax $. There has been no transparency here – even to internal members of the City Government.

    • There has been a total lack of regard for private families affected
    • Where do they stop? Do they take all the beaches from the owners? Or just pick on those owners that have large parcels and need to expend large $s to defend their property rights?
    • What happened to individual property rights to own property as guaranteed by the constitution?
    • If this was your property how would you feel?
    • The intention is to remove bulkheads which will result in significant landslides. These will be very unsafe for people on the beach and the children that cannot resist climbing on the hillsides. How will we protect the public?
    • The Cascade Land Conservancy is an organization staffed by individuals whose careers and incomes depend on the creation of actions like this one. The more actions they start, the more grants they can justify, and the more salaries they generate paid by our tax dollars. Make no mistake; they make work for themselves in the interest of maintaining their jobs.

    I encourage all residents of Normandy Park to read the proposed shoreline management master plan, which will potentially affect many shoreline property owners, and all lot “A” Cove owners, if a successful plan is developed to remove the boat ramp and all the shoreline picnic areas. We should all demand transparency from our City Government on these issues, and stop the deceptive practices that only serve the agendas of a few individuals, and organizations that depend on State grants to sustain their jobs.

  2. Brian Norton says:

    Out of control government at all levels. What is unclear about STOP. Stop growing, Stop spending, stop taxing, stop planning how we “should” live, Stop do-gooding, just stop.

    Looks like we need a Normandy Park Tea Party Revolution. November is only weeks away.

    Please NAME NAMES. Which nut or nuts on the council is/are backing this and wasting my cash and harassing these landowners?

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