Bilcher v. Cowlitz County, Ct. of Appeals Case No. 35171-4-II (May 2007) (unpublished)*

Saturday, June 2, 2007

* This post is published here under the Creative Commons License. The post was authored by Keith Ganey and originally published to his blog at Ganey is a 2008 graduate of the University of Washington School of Law.


A landowner’s appeal from a hearing examiner’s decision was invalid because he failed to serve a copy of the appeal to a person possibly misidentified by the hearing examiner as an owner of the property. The landowner was required to challenge the hearing examiner’s determination of ownership or to serve the person.


The court applied the law in a clear, straight-forward manner to an interesting set of facts. John Bilcher purchased a lot in a senior community from Gabriel Goro through private contract. Once in control of the property, Mr. Bilcher began, with his friends and family, to use the property as an RV campground and shooting range. Such activities were not allowed by the land’s zoning and the county acted to enforce the zoning rules.

Ultimately, the Hearing Examiner denied Mr. Bilcher’s tardy request for a special use permit. In the written decision, the examiner named Mr. Goro as an owner of the property. This was a natural, and perhaps correct, action since Mr. Goro remained on the tax rolls as the owner of the property. Mr. Bilcher and a co-purchaser had assumed the full responsibilities of ownership, including property tax payments, but had not changed the ownership records at the county assessor’s office.

The key to the case is the hearing examiner opinion listed Mr. Goro as an owner. Since Mr. Bilcher did not challenge the examiner’s finding on that point, Mr. Bilcher became bound to treat Mr. Goro as an owner for the purposes of the decision – including his appeal.

RCW 36.70C.040 of the Land Use Petition Act (LUPA) provides:
(2) A land use petition is barred, and the court may not grant review, unless the petition is timely filed with the court and timely served on the following persons who shall be parties to review of the land use petition:
(b) Each of the following persons if the person is not the petitioner:
(ii) Each person identified by name and address in the local jurisdiction’s written decision as an owner of the property at issue.


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