Model Homeless Village Approved

GTH is proud to represent the Tacoma Rescue Mission in acquiring land and permitting the Pierce County Village project. The Pierce County Village will be a 280-unit village to serve the County’s chronically homeless population, providing dignified housing, wrap-around services and a sense of community. As noted by Tacoma Rescue Mission Executive Director Duke Paulson, the village would serve vulnerable people who have few if any sustainable, long-term options. The project was recently approved by the County’s Hearing Examiner, following a lengthy and contentious process. GTH is proud to be a part of this important community effort. https://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/article289005474.html

Congratulations!

GTH is pleased to announce that Chelsea Rauch and Owen Taylor have been promoted to senior associates.

GTH attends Goodwill Luncheon

Gordon Thomas Honeywell is proud of having clients such as Goodwill of the Olympics & Rainier Region.  Goodwill changes people’s lives and gives them hope.  Our firm sponsored a table at the Goodwill luncheon at this year’s event and heard inspiring stories from Goodwill clients.

GTH to attend Power Up Goodwill Luncheon

We are so excited to contribute to Goodwill’s Power Up Luncheon. We believe everyone should have access to the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in todays technology oriented world. The Power Up Centennial Campaign is attempting to raise $5 million over the next 5 years to put computers and training in the hands of people effected by poverty, and we are honored to contribute in any way we can.

Andrea McNeely recognized by Tacoma-Peirce County Bar Association.

We at GTH are so proud of Andrea McNeely being recognized for her service to the Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association. Andrea has given her time to numerous committees including her current role as co-chair of the TPCBA Judicial Evaluation Committee.  GTH has a history of its attorneys contributing their time and efforts to improve the local legal community.  Way to go Andrea!

GTH’S Rob Wilke in the news.

GTH’s Rob Wilke made news this week representing Levar Couch in his case against the Central Tacoma Bar. Couch was a victim of a recent shooting taking place at The Alleycat Patio and Lounge in November of last year. Wilke had this to say, “This lawsuit is all about making sure this doesn’t happen again and making sure the public is safe,” “This was a tragedy that affected so many lives.”

https://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/article285151922.html

Congratulations Katie Chan

At GTH, we strive to get our new attorneys into court – not just as observers but as active participants.  Today, one of our newest associates, Katie Chan, argued in the Washington Court of Appeals Div. II.  Katie came to GTH in the fall of 2023 from clerking at the Court of Appeals for the prior two years.  It was a homecoming for her and she did a remarkable job.  She made all of us at GTH proud.  (Note: this picture was taken before, not during, the oral argument.)

GTH Partners with Sheridan Elementary

We at Gordon Thomas Honeywell are proud to begin another year of supporting and mentoring the students at Sheridan Elementary School on the Eastside of Tacoma. Seven years ago, GTH “adopted” a first-grade class, and we gave each student a book to take home during winter break.  We continued the tradition with these students every year through the 5th grade.  This year, we adopted a new first-grade class, and we cannot wait to watch these kids grow and matriculate.

https://www.linkedin.com/posts/gordon-thomas-honeywell_gth-attorneys-made-a-special-visit-to-sheridan-activity-7141575795419848704-E5MD?utm_source=share&utm_medium=member_desktop

Lessons in Land Use Law (From a Mid-Career Attorney)

Written by Reuben Schutz

This content originally appeared in Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association’s Pierce County Lawyer Magazine. It has been reprinted here with permission from TPCBA.

I would be lying if I said I always wanted to be a land-use attorney. Frankly in law school I didn’t know the practice existed. As it turned out, I found the practice by serendipity.

In 2017, I was an associate at Gordon Thomas Honeywell in Tacoma practicing plaintiff medical malpractice – and I was miserable. To be clear, my mentor at the time was fantastic and I was learning a ton. Still, I found myself often wondering how I ended up suing doctors. My father and sister are both doctors; another sister is a nurse. I tip-toed around the subject of my work at family gatherings.

Luckily for me, I work in a very supportive firm. When it became clear that medical malpractice was not for me, I was encouraged to join the firm’s land use group. For me, the practice, and more importantly the people, were a perfect fit. The rest is history; well my history anyway.

As a land use attorney, I get to use my law degree to resolve complicated problems. (Or at least that is what I attempt to do.) In the course of doing that I like to think that I help make projects better, which is pretty cool. But it is a challenging practice, and some days it feels like what I don’t know could fill books. Still, I have learned a couple of things over the past years. Here are a few of them.

Mind the Deadline

The deadline under the Land Use Petition Act (LUPA) is no joke. It is 21 days, it is jurisdictional, and absolutely no grace is given. A partner once told me: “Service makes me nervous.” LUPA service gives me ulcers.

The City Clerk was served on the 21st day but it happened at 5:02 p.m.? Sorry, better luck next time.

The Deputy City Clerk came out and accepted service on the Clerk’s behalf? Well tough.

I always try to serve LUPA petitions at least several days early. But it doesn’t always work out that way, and I have found myself driving to Puyallup at 3:30 on the 21st day sweating bullets.

To make matters worse, it is often not clear when the 21 days starts running. Was the land use decision mailed to the applicant? Then add three days to the deadline. Wait, it was emailed? Never mind, remove those three extra days. Wait again, it was emailed and mailed? That is not covered by the rule!

Of course, sometimes it is not even clear whether the decision being appealed is subject to LUPA. Maybe it needs to go to the Shoreline Hearing’s Board, or the Growth Management Hearings Board, or the Environmental Hearings Board. Or it could be a Declaratory Judgment action or an APA appeal. When in doubt I file in both/all. Better to drop an appeal claim later than discover you are in the wrong place after the deadline has passed.

As if that was not enough to worry about, there is exhaustion. Have you exhausted all administrative remedies (that change jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and each have their own specific deadline)? You mean you did not realize that in a certain local jurisdiction you had to appeal to an Appellate Examiner that reviews the Examiner’s decision?

Bottom line: when it comes to LUPA appeals, minefields abound.

Always Go to the Property

Satellite imagery is amazing and getting better all of the time. These days you can pull up detailed images of a property in seconds. You can view it on your computer from different angles. It is a new age.

But for land use there is no substitute for having your feet on the ground. It is rarely exactly as you pictured, and you are almost sure to notice something you would have otherwise missed. It is just easier to see how things fit. If I had a nickel for every time I said: “Oh now I see what you mean” during a site visit, I would have a handful.

Another reason to go to the property – it is important to clients. Personal injury plaintiffs often want their day in court; property owners want you to see and understand the property. A phone call or zoom to discuss overheads does not satisfy.

Do In Person Meetings – Onsite if Possible

It’s a Zoom/Teams world. There’s no denying the efficiencies of video meetings. But so much of land use is about building trust and relationships. While you may need to push back on some conditions, you still need to cooperate with the local jurisdiction on many others. And you will need to do the same on the next case with the same people. Face to face matters for relationships.

Another reason in person is key is that there are often lots of drawings, surveys, engineering plans involved – big papers with lots of small lines and words. All of this is best worked out around a table in person. Sometimes you need to push for that, and it costs the client money, but it generally pays off.

Better yet, try to meet on site. Sometimes that makes all the difference. One time I had hit a brick wall trying to convince fire protection authorities that paving and dramatically widening a rural driveway adjacent to wetlands was a bad idea for a small kennel business. Around and around we went but to no avail. Eventually I was able to get the fire marshal to meet on site. He took one look and said: “Oh yeah, the existing drive is just fine.” That one site visit probably saved the client’s business.

City/County Attorneys Can be Your Friends

So much of the real land use work happens without any litigation or prior to any litigation. It is often necessary to work with city or county staff to get through sticking points and issues and attorneys are not always involved. As good as most staff are at their jobs, whether as planners, engineers, etc., they are not lawyers. They do not stay up on current cases or know the intricacies of constitutional takings law or other legal limits on their authority.

That is where city/county attorneys can be very helpful. There have been times when I have asked (nay begged) staff to call the attorney. Sometimes the attorney and I will disagree, but often we’re on the same page or at least have the same understanding of the law. And when that happens it can save potentially weeks of back and forth with staff, not to mention the associated costs.

I really enjoy working with nearly all of the City and County attorneys that I regularly practice with and against. Civility is the norm with this group, and that makes practicing fun. 

Whole Lot of New Faces

The Great Retirement that accompanied the pandemic did not spare city and county staffs, including planners, engineers, etc. There has been a ton of turnover in the last several years. This means that there are many new people, often at the beginning of their careers.

The institutional knowledge gained over a career in public service is not easily or quickly replaced. The result has often been increased wait times for decisions. This can be challenging, especially for clients for whom time equals money. The only thing for it is to be persistent, practice patience, and make sure the client’s expectations are in line with current reality.

Well, those are a few things I have learned, sometimes the hard way. If any young/new attorneys want to know more about the practice of land use law, I would be more than happy to meet with them and discuss it.