Reflecting on 20 years of PLF in the Pacific Northwest

February 21, 2012 | By BRIAN HODGES

This year marks the 20th anniversary of PLF’s Northwest Regional Center.  This is definitely a moment to celebrate, and we intend to do so.  But more than that, this is a time to reflect on two decades of PLF’s efforts in the Pacific Northwest.

PLF opened its Northwest office in 1992.  Sir Mix-A-Lot was topping the charts, Wayne’s World was gracing the silver screen, and Washington’s legislature had just penned the largest and most intrusive land use statute in the state’s history.  The Growth Management Act, and similar land use and environmental statutes, marked a new era of ever-increasing regulation of private property.  PLF’s arrival on the scene did not go unnoticed.

In a story entitled, “Local Land-Use Issues Attract Law Group,” the Seattle Post Intelligencer reported that PLF was opening a regional office in the Pacific Northwest “to wage court battles over property rights and environmental regulations.”  The article concluded by quoting two prominent Seattle land-use attorneys who dismissed PLF’s efforts to protect private property rights as being “a Trojan horse” that was “clearly out of sync with the majority of the state.”  The attorneys dismissed PLF as adding nothing to the legal community, because Washington landowners had routinely failed in efforts to protect private property rights when challenging land-use restrictions.  They claimed that simply adding two more attorneys to the mix is not going to do that much, predicting that it was “doubtful the foundation will have many major victories.”

Fast forward 20 years.  PLF has maintained a successful office in the Pacific Northwest for almost two decades.  And those doubtful victories?  Well, PLF began to score major victories almost immediately, setting positive property rights precedent on issues such as vested rights, substantive due process, inverse condemnation, exactions, and growth control, and continues to win important cases in the state and federal courts.  Over the next few months, we will revisit several key victories that continue to preserve fundamental constitutional rights in response to a massive expansion of government controls of private property.