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Postema v. Snohomish County

September 9, 1996

JOHN POSTEMA, APPELLANT,
v.
SNOHOMISH COUNTY; KING COUNTY; PUGET SOUND REGIONAL COUNCIL, A QUASI-PUBLIC AGENCY; ARLINGTON, A WASHINGTON MUNICIPAL CORPORATION; BOTHELL, A WASHINGTON MUNICIPAL CORPORATION; BRIER, A WASHINGTON MUNICIPAL CORPORATION; DARRINGTON; A WASHINGTON MUNICIPAL CORPORATION; EDMONDS, A WASHINGTON MUNICIPAL CORPORATION; EVERETT, A WASHINGTON MUNICIPAL CORPORATION; GOLD BAR, A WASHINGTON MUNICIPAL CORPORATION; GRANITE FALLS, A WASHINGTON MUNICIPAL CORPORATION; LAKE STEVENS, A WASHINGTON MUNICIPAL CORPORATION; LYNNWOOD, A WASHINGTON MUNICIPAL CORPORATION; MARYSVILLE, A WASHINGTON MUNICIPAL CORPORATION; MILL CREEK, A WASHINGTON MUNICIPAL CORPORATION; MONROE, A WASHINGTON MUNICIPAL CORPORATION; MOUNTLAKE TERRACE, A WASHINGTON MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, MUKILTEO, A WASHINGTON MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, SNOHOMISH, A WASHINGTON MUNICIPAL CORPORATION STANWOOD, A WASHINGTON MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, SULTAN, A WASHINGTON MUNICIPAL CORPORATION; WOODWAY, A WASHINGTON MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, RESPONDENTS.



Superior Court County: Snohomish. Superior Court Cause No: 94-2-03616-3. Date filed in Superior Court: 10/28/94. Superior Court Judge Signing: Richard J. Thorpe.

Petition for Review Denied April 4, 1997,

Written by: Ann L. Ellington, J. Concurred by: H. Joseph Coleman, J., Walter E. Webster, J.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ellington

ELLINGTON, J. -- John Postema is a resident of rural Snohomish County. He appeals dismissal of his suit challenging constitutionality of certain statutes of the Growth Management Act (RCW 36.70A.210 and .340), and actions taken by the county thereunder. Because Postema has standing to raise only one issue, and that issue is non-justiciable, dismissal was appropriate, and is affirmed.

RCW 36.70A.210 requires a county's legislative authority to adopt a county-wide planning policy in cooperation with the cities located in the county, by convening a meeting with city representatives to establish a "collaborative process that will provide a framework for the adoption of a county-wide planning policy," which is then used as a framework to develop county and city comprehensive plans. Postema argues that this statute creates a regional governmental body which violates the constitutional principle of one person, one vote. Because this principle applies only where an exercise (or possible exercise) of governmental powers is involved, which is not the case here, Postema's equal protection rights are not violated.

Background

The Growth Management Act requires the legislative authority of certain counties to meet with its constituent city representatives "for the purpose of establishing a collaborative process that will provide a framework for the adoption of a county-wide planning policy." RCW 36.70A.210(2)(a); RCW 36.70A.040. A C-WPP is a written policy statement used "solely for establishing a county-wide framework from which county and city comprehensive plans are developed and adopted[.]" RCW 36.70A.210(1).

Already at work in Snohomish County at the time the Act was passed was an informal intergovernmental planning group called Snohomish County Tomorrow (SCT), which included elected officials from the county and its constituent cities and towns. Following passage of the Act, SCT drafted a county-wide planning policy, which the Snohomish County Council adopted as Snohomish County Ordinance 93-004 in February, 1993. The following year, the Supreme Court ruled that this ordinance was not subject to referendum because it "did not establish, dissolve, or modify any legal rights . . . [but] merely established very general goals governing such issues as development of urban and rural areas, housing and transportation[.]" Snohomish Cy. v. Anderson, 123 Wash. 2d 151, 154, 868 P.2d 116 (1994) (Anderson I).

Several months after this ruling, Postema filed a complaint against Snohomish County, the municipalities that comprise Snohomish County, King County, and the Puget Sound Regional Council. Postema argued that RCW 36.70A.210 creates a regional government, violates the principle of one person, one vote and unconstitutionally alters the police powers of the county and the cities. He further argued that RCW 36.70A.340 is an unconstitutional delegation of sanctions authority to the governor. On grounds that the statutes are unconstitutional, he argued that the ordinance was ultra vires and sought to void various interlocal agreements adopted under the ordinance. Postema also sought to recoup taxpayer funds dispersed under these agreements.

The Respondents moved to dismiss Postema's claims, arguing, inter alia, that he lacked standing and did not present a justiciable issue. King County moved for dismissal on grounds that Postema did not request any relief from King County.

Then, before the trial court heard Respondents' motion to dismiss, the Supreme Court again analyzed the ordinance in light of RCW 36.70A.210, and held the ordinance was not ultra vires because, as stated in Anderson I, the statute did not affect citizens' legal rights, and because the statute did not "alter the land-use powers of the cities." Snohomish Cy. v. Anderson, 124 Wash. 2d 834, 842, 881 P.2d 240 (1994) (Anderson II).

The trial court dismissed all of Postema's claims on standing and justiciability grounds, reasoning that the statute only established a "framework" for further action and that the case was not ripe because no comprehensive plan affecting anyone's legal rights had yet been adopted. In making its ruling, the trial court considered numerous materials outside the pleadings and acknowledged that the hearing was essentially a motion for summary judgment. We therefore review the judgment de novo. Safeco Ins. Co. v. Butler, 118 Wash. 2d 383, 394-95, 823 P.2d 499 (1992).

Standing and Justiciabililty

A party seeking to challenge constitutionality of a statute must demonstrate that the statute has operated to that party's prejudice. Absent a personal stake in the challenge, a party lacks standing to bring the suit. Absent a party with standing, courts lack jurisdiction to consider the challenge. High Tide Seafoods v. State, 106 Wash. 2d 695, 701-02, 725 ...


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