Three weeks ago, after city Hearing Examiner Sue Tanner ruled against the neighbor-filed appeal in the Admiral tree-vs.-house case, appellant Lisa Parriott was still considering what to do next. Now, she tells WSB she’s taking the case to court. And she revealed she’s reached a settlement with the city regarding the fees they sought to charge related to her appeal.
First, the basic backstory if you haven’t been following this: The tree is a 100-ish-foot Ponderosa Pine growing at 3036 39th SW, on what the neighborhood had long seen as the side yard for the house next door. Real-estate investor Cliff Low bought the property – house, tree, and all – in late 2015 and sought a city opinion to confirm that the side with the tree was a buildable lot. The city said it was. He filed for permits to build a two-story house with a two-vehicle garage. Neighbors launched a save-the-tree campaign. When the city formally said OK last October, both Parriott and the Seattle Green Spaces Coalition filed appeals, though ultimately Tanner only allowed Parriott’s case – and only in part – to proceed.
That is considered the city’s final say in the matter, so any challenge has to be taken to Superior Court, and that’s what Parriott has done, filing a Land Use Petition and Complaint. You can read the document in its entirety here; the contentions include the same argument at the heart of the case taken to the Hearing Examiner, that the site doesn’t qualify for a Historic Lot Exception because there is nothing on record suggesting it was considered a separate building lot. Parriott’s action also seeks an injunction to keep the tree from being cut and house from being built while this plays out; city files show the building permit for the house was issued two weeks ago, on February 2nd.
Meantime, with that court fight looming, Parriott reached a settlement with the city precluding a fight over fees charged for the interpretation she was forced to seek because the Hearing Examiner threw out her other potential avenue of appeal even before the January hearing. Here’s the agreement:
She paid the required $2,800 to cover staff time the city said would be spent on the “code interpretation,” and then the city sent a bill for more than $10,000, saying that was the cost of additional hours its staff spent on the case. As a result of the settlement, the Department of Construction and Inspections will waive that fee.
Next steps in Parriott’s land-use petition will likely be a hearing for both sides to argue before a King County Superior Court judge.