Wednesday, October 15, 2014

City Council not setting pace of annexation

    The outcry of the few against the Bellevue City Council consists of lack of knowledge.
    This is understandable, as one of the most significant, yet least understood requirements in the area of planning and zoning is the mandate for quasi-judicial hearings when dealing with site-specific land-use applications. Local officials and citizens must understand this procedure to protect the due process rights of applicants.
    Courts have determined that landowners have a property interest in site-specific land-use decisions, meaning due process requirements are necessary to protect the rights of the landowner.
    In these hearings, the City Council members serve as judges, receiving testimony and evidence, on which they base their decisions. This is where ex parte communication occurs. In order to protect constitutional rights of parties involved, they cannot discuss site-specific land-use issues outside a public hearing. This applies 100 percent to annexations and subdivisions.
    Ex parte communication presents two problems:  it is a fact-gathering session that is not preceded by notice;  it denies the ability to rebut evidence presented to decision-makers.
    Imagine you were being sued and the opposing party took the judge to a private lunch to explain their side of the story. You would be justifiably angry, because the judge showed favoritism to the other side by giving them a forum to discuss the case without you or your lawyer present.  It’s the same thing in site-specific land-use decisions.   Local officials must behave like judges and only discuss these issues in a public meeting. 
    There are no hidden agendas nor lack of transparency with this City Council—only a purpose to uphold the annexation process according to state law and city ordinances.  The procedure is not being sped up nor slowed down, but allowed to proceed at its proper pace.
Marilyn Plott

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