by Frederica Merrell
There has been significant interest in the appeal that I filed with the Hearing Examiner’s office on January 29. I love that people in our community are engaged, reading, and looking at what is going on around them. Our Beacon blog is an amazing venue for keeping up on stuff that’s important to us and not likely to be followed anywhere else.
An appeal is a quasi-judicial process with rules and procedures. The Hearing Examiner runs the show and our examiner Sue Tanner is very capable and experienced. She is charged with impartiality, efficiency, expediency, transparency and equal access to all, even those without a lawyer or legal training (like me). There are lots of areas where appeals are used, including the appeal of an environmental determination (SEPA appeal) like mine.
So there is the person filing the appeal (me), the agency or party whose action triggered the appeal (the city’s Department of Planning and Development, or DPD) and the Hearing Examiner. Other people can enter into the discussion too, and anyone can come watch any step of the process down at the Hearing Examiner’s office on the 40th floor of the big tower at 700 Fifth Avenue (Seattle Municipal Tower). I assume the records on the process are all open to the public.
Last week, I had my Prehearing Conference. This is a time to meet, go over the paperwork that is being filed, make sure everyone has each other’s addresses, and create a mutually agreeable calendar for the steps being taken. I noticed that most of the time was taken up with the calendar. In order to do the calendar all the likely steps in the process have to be laid out. Right now, DPD is going to find some information for me and also try to narrow the scope of the appeal. They felt it was too broad. I will get some time to look at the information they provide and respond back. We will both draw up a list of “exhibits” that we want to share with each other in the hearing. We will both draw up a list of “witnesses.” The time frame for all these steps are laid out and we came to agreement on a hearing date of April 7 at 9:00 am. Anyone who wants to watch the hearing can come.
The excellent media folks at our blog asked me some specific questions about the appeal. An appeal is kind of like a poker game. One important strategy for winning the game is not showing your hand. So I’m not going to answer a lot of specific questions right now while I am in the middle of the process because I want to win my hearing determination! I do encourage you to read information that is readily available. If you haven’t read the full appendix of the North Beacon Hill Update, you might want to do that.
Some other great stuff to look at: check out City Council committee meetings on a good computer where you can see the videos. I recommend the last couple of meetings of Councilmember O’Brien’s Seattle Public Utilities and Neighborhoods Committee (SPUNC) and Sally Clark’s Committee on the Built Environment. Her last meeting was particularly interesting and I am going to go back and look at the whole thing again. This is a very interesting process to me because I have never filed an appeal before. I am learning as I go. If you want to know why I filed the appeal, come to the hearing! That is where I lay out my arguments before the Hearing Examiner and DPD makes their arguments too. Until then, we don’t reveal our arguments. Hope to see you on April 7!
Frederica Merrell was the North Beacon Hill neighborhood planning co-chair from 1998-2000, and is the co-author of Seattle’s Beacon Hill.