LETTER: Normandy Park City Attorney responds to John Rankin’s claims

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Normandy Park Blog nor its staff:]

Dear Mr. Mayne,

I am the Normandy Park City Attorney. Bob Jean, the Interim City Manager at Normandy Park, has asked me respond to you regarding the facts surrounding the letters sent to the Army Corps of Engineers on the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project (PSNERP). Much of those facts predate Bob’s tenure with the City and so he asked me if I would relate them to you.

The City was sued by the Hadley-Colmenares family in 2011. At the time, the City was acquiring properties along the beach below the Hadley-Colmenares home. These properties are commonly known as the “Piano Key” parcels because of their shape and configuration. The parcels were being acquired as part of the City’s Beaconsfield on the Sound Project, which has been ongoing since 2005. Some of the Piano Key parcels are improved with a concrete bulkhead, some are improved with a rock revetment, and some are unimproved. The Hadley-Colmenares family’s suit asked the court to confirm that the family was the owner of these shoreline armoring improvements and had an easement on the parcels to maintain those improvements in perpetuity. The family was concerned that the City would attempt to remove the shoreline armoring from the Piano Key properties without their permission and that this would cause damage to their upland properties.

The lawsuit was settled in 2012 and the parties entered into a settlement agreement. Under the settlement agreement, the City recognized the Hadley-Colmenares family’s ownership of the armoring improvements and agreed that it would comply with existing recorded easements on some of the Piano Key parcels and grant easements on others as the City continued to acquire parcels along the beach. The City also agreed to “eliminate any bulkhead and rock revetment removal without the express consent of the record owners of the Hadley-Colmenares Family Properties as an element of the [Beaconsfield on the Sound] Project.” In exchange, among other things, the Hadley-Colmenares family agreed to “express their support for future acquisition by the City of an ownership interest, easement, or license on the remaining Piano Key parcels so long as such acquisition is from willing property owners.” Since the 2012 settlement, the City has continued to acquire Piano Key parcels from willing sellers and has complied with the settlement agreement by granting easements to the Hadley-Colmenares family on any of those parcels that the settlement agreement obligates them to. The Normandy Park City Council has approved each of these Piano Key parcel acquisitions and has accepted grant funds from the King Conservation District in order to fund the acquisitions.

PSNERP has been studying the potential for restoring the nearshore ecosystem in Puget Sound for a number of years and has been looking at doing a restoration project along the Beaconsfield bluff since at least 2010. In mid-September 2014, PSNERP notified the City that a Draft Feasibility Report was going to be prepared by the Army Corps of Engineers on several projects, including PSNERP’s proposed Beaconsfield restoration project. PSNERP requested that the City provide a letter of support for PSNERP’s efforts. The then-City Manager forwarded that request to the City Council’s Environmental Committee, which responded to the request with a letter dated October 7 expressing support for the PSNERP restoration project. The letter did not address the Hadley-Colmenares family’s interests in particular, but advised that the City had been and would continue to acquire property and property rights in the Beaconsfield area only from willing sellers. The letter was not reviewed by the entire Council prior to its being sent by the Committee, but it was consistent with the City Council’s previous actions related to the Piano Key parcels and the PSNERP project. When the City applied for King Conservation District grant funds in April 2013 for the purchase of the Piano Key parcels, the Council voted to authorize a grant application stating that the Council had determined that nearshore ecosystem restoration along the Beaconsfield bluff was a priority for the Normandy Park community and acknowledging that the City’s Beaconsfield efforts were a part of the federal project being pursued by PSNERP. In January 2014, when Council voted to accept the grant funding that resulted from the 2013 application, the Council approved the grant agreement based in part on the alignment of the City’s Piano Key acquisitions with PSNERP’s long-term restoration goals.

When the Hadley-Colmenares family expressed concerns about the October 7 letter, the chair of the Council’s Environmental Committee, Doug Osterman, immediately began working with Lisa Hadley on a letter clarifying the City’s position in a way that both the City and the Hadley-Colmenares family could support. Due to the hard work and cooperative efforts of Councilmember Osterman and Ms. Hadley, a letter was drafted and presented to the City Council for action on January 7. That letter, which was approved by the entire membership of the Council, affirmed the support of the entire City Council for the PSNERP project, while clarifying that the Hadley-Colmenares family retains it rights in the shoreline armoring and that any removal of the shoreline armoring will require the cooperation and agreement of both the Hadley-Colmenares family and the City of Normandy Park.

The above are the facts. To the extent that Mr. Rankin’s letter states or implies otherwise, the City respectfully disagrees with his statements. The City also disagrees with Mr. Rankin’s statement that the October 7 letter from the Environmental Committee placed the City at “grave financial risk” from lawsuits or claims. The City and the Hadley-Colmenares family are now in agreement as to the City’s position on the PSNERP project and no lawsuits have been threatened that the City is aware of. As for the remainder of Mr. Rankin’s allegations, they are simply not consistent with the facts above and are better left for discussion in another forum.

I hope that these facts will be of assistance to you in any article you may write. If you have any questions, you can reach me at the address and telephone number set forth below.

James E. Haney | Attorney at Law

Ogden Murphy Wallace P.L.L.C.
901 Fifth Avenue, Suite 3500
Seattle, WA 98164
phone: 206.447.7000 | fax: 206.447.0215
[email protected] | omwlaw.com

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3 Responses to “LETTER: Normandy Park City Attorney responds to John Rankin’s claims”
  1. MS says:

    Be aware of all the facts and data on this subject, including those not addressed in the City Attorney letter regarding the costs of the project, and the reality that if some owners do not become “willing” sellers, then the only option will be to take the land from them with eminent domain. This level of activity and expenditure of taxpayer’s money should involve the vote of more than just the City Council. Just another case of Government exerting authority over the private landowner. Maybe if some of the City Council members want the land so much, they should acquire the land with their personal funds, instead of our tax money.

  2. pappy says:

    Perhaps next we will see some Jazz Hands as im told those can be distracting too. What we have here is the City Lawyer WHO IS ALSO INVOLVED UP TO HIS NECK INT THIS, telling us not to pay attention to the man behind the curtain!

    The facts are that these 3 council members signed the latter on NP letter head, stating THEY were representing the city and endorsed the removal of bulkheds AGAINST a legal agreement!
    Further it appears that the city has been working against that agreement since 2013.

    IF this was above board, the FULL council would have been involved.
    IF this was above board the council WOULD have contacted the owner
    IF this was above board the ownes WOULD NOT have demanded the city reverse and retract its letter.
    IF this was above board the owners wouldnt have uad to bring their lawyer to a council meeting.
    IF this was all settled and above board Rankin would lnt be calling for the prosecution of three council member

    There is SO much dishonesty surround what these 3 council members have done the documented proof shows where the problem is.

    FINALLY IF this was above board………… This wouldn’t be new. Have the integrity to step forward and say “We screwed up”

  3. Duffy says:

    U can’t speak for the city on its opion u r just the city’s lawyer, Shut up an sit down. and wait till u r asked a question.

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