Opponents of new Youth Service Center may get another chance to stop it

If Council member Mike O’Brien has his way, the land use code will be amended to allow opponents of the proposed King County Youth Service Center to appeal issuance of a Master Use Permit for the facility.

Last December, the city’s Department of Construction and Inspections issued the Master Use Permit for the replacement of the Youth Service Center. Members of the “No New Youth Jail” activist group appealed the permit to the Hearing Examiner. In March, the Hearing Examiner dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, because the Land Use Code, as amended by the City Council in 2015, categorizes land use decisions regarding the youth service center as “Type I” decisions which are at the discretion of the Director of SDCI and not subject to appeal to the Hearing Examiner.

This week, O’Brien is introducing an ordinance that modifies the Land Use Code to make them Type II decisions that can be appealed to the Hearing Examiner.

O’Brien’s bill notes that the Fiscal Note accompanying the original ordinance (sponsored by O’Brien) specifically calls out that the intent was to make the land use decisions Type II, appealable ones, and it was an “oversight” that the Council didn’t add make them such.

O’Brien intends for the change to be retroactive, to allow the activists’ appeal to go forward. From the bill’s preamble:

WHEREAS, the Council intends that this curative ordinance shall apply retroactively to the effective date of Ordinance 124610, and in particular to any pending appeal of a youth service center decision filed after that effective date;

And in text of the code change:

Section 2. Retroactivity.  This ordinance applies retroactively to April 1, 2015, the effective date of Ordinance 124610.

Unless there is some legal reason why it can’t be applied retroactively (or if there is a procedural issue with refiling the appeal), this bill will likely earn broad support from the Council. It’s hard to argue against giving citizens their due process rights to challenge a government ruling they dislike. The bill will get its first hearing in O’Brien’s next committee meeting, currently scheduled for Friday, May 12.