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Advance Resorts of America Inc. v. Washington State Shorelines Hearings Board

December 16, 1996


Appeal from Superior Court of Skagit County. Docket No: 94-2-01086-0. Date filed: 09/06/95. Judge signing: Hon. George E. McIntosh.

Petition for Review Denied June 9, 1997,

PER CURIAM -- The doctrine of collateral estoppel bars relitigation of an issue already decided. Although courts apply issue preclusion only when four elements have been met, this land use case concerns only one element: whether the current adjudication and a previous one involve an identical issue.

In the previous adjudication, the owner of a recreational vehicle park applied for a permit to add eighty more RV spaces. Because the proposed expansion was not Shoreline Related under La Conner's land use code, the Shorelines Hearings Board affirmed the town's denial of the application. Several years later, the owner applied for a permit to add eight more spaces. Neither the land use code, nor any facts concerning the RV park's shoreline relatedness have changed since the previous adjudication. But the current application does differ in scope and location. Even so, the issue of shoreline relatedness raised by the current application is identical to that previously decided against the owner. As a result, the owner is precluded from relitigating it. Hence, we affirm the superior court's judgment in favor of La Conner's decision to deny the owner's permit.


James Cobb applied to the town of La Conner for a shoreline substantial development permit. He wanted to operate a recreational vehicle park near the Swinomish Slough, anticipating demand because it was near a marina, and the San Juan Islands. He planned to offer RV spaces to the traveling public, and other amenities such as a swimming pool that La Conner's population could use. La Conner granted Cobb a shoreline permit for a 60 space RV park.

When revenue was less than he had anticipated, Cobb started converting the park into a members-only facility. Without a permit, Cobb also added eight additional RV spaces. In 1988, Cobb applied for a shoreline permit to add another 80 spaces across the street. La Conner denied the permit. The Shorelines Hearings Board affirmed, finding that Cobb's proposal was inconsistent with La Conner's Shoreline Master Program: the proposed expansion did not qualify because it was not "Shoreline Related." *fn1 Two years later, Cobb sold the RV park to Advance Resorts.

Advance continued the conversion to a members-only facility, restricted public use of amenities, and placed ten of its own trailers on RV spaces for temporary use by members who didn't want to bring their own recreational vehicles. In response, La Conner rescinded the 1985 permit. On appeal, the Shorelines Hearing Board held that Advance Resorts did not violate the permit by placing ten trailers at the park, changing the membership system, or restricting public access to the amenities. *fn2

Consequently, it reversed La Conner's permit rescission. *fn3 As regards the eight additional spaces, the SHB concluded that that violation of the permit did not justify rescission:

The Board concludes that the unauthorized eight spaces do not justify the rescission of the 1985 permit and, if the Town so chooses, it may require a new substantial development permit for those eight spaces but not for the remaining sixty spaces and other features which were authorized by the 1985 permit. *fn4

The next month, Advance Resorts sought a shoreline permit for eight spaces. La Conner denied the permit. The SHB affirmed, applying the doctrine of issue preclusion (collateral estoppel). It held that Advance could not re-litigate the shoreline relatedness of expanding the RV park. Because the SHB, in 1988, had decided that such an expansion was not Shoreline Related, and La Conner had not changed its land use code, the town did not need to reconsider whether a proposed expansion to the RV park was Shoreline Related. The SHB's decision even questioned whether La Conner had properly issued the 1985 permit: "It appears that the Town of La Conner compromised its own master program in 1985 in exchange for a public pool." *fn5 Advance appealed to superior court under the Administrative Procedure Act. The court, entering findings and Conclusions, affirmed the Shorelines Hearing Board, agreeing that La Conner properly denied Advance's permit.


Advance Resorts appeals the Shorelines Hearings Board decision under the Administrative Procedure Act. *fn6 This court will reverse the SHB's decision if it erroneously interpreted or applied the law. *fn7


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