February 9, 2011

Government must play by the rules!

By Government must play by the rules!

Author: Daniel Himebaugh

PLF filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court of Washington this week in a case called Phoenix Development, Inc. v. City of Woodinville.  In that case, Woodinville argues that it can "legislatively" reject permit applications, even if an applicant satisfies all of the criteria for getting the permit.  We argue that Woodinville is wrong — government must play by the rules and grant permits when the applicant meets the requirements for approval.

The case arose when Phoenix Development requested that the city rezone Phoenix's property to allow Phoenix to build two residential subdivisions.  Under Washington law, the city must treat Phoenix's request like a project application, which means that the city must evaluate the application according to the current development code.  Although city staff concluded that Phoenix met the criteria for rezoning, the city council, acting in its "legislative capacity," rejected Phoenix's application.  The city is now arguing that it has a policy-making prerogative to reject permits, even when an applicant shows that he or she fulfills the city's development requirements.

In our view, the city's argument is the epitome of arbitrariness, and should be rejected.

The court will hear oral argument on March 15.

What to read next