Normandy Park, Cascade Land Conservancy Sued Over Removal Of Bulkheads

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by Ralph Nichols

A lawsuit filed by a long-time area family against the City of Normandy Park and the Cascade Land Conservancy seeks to block removal of bulkheads they say protect their home and property.

The complaint alleges that attempts by the city and the conservation group to remove the bulkheads are based on “dishonest and misleading representations to state and county funding agencies.”

It was filed in King County Superior Court by Brent Carson with GordonDerr – a Seattle law firm that focuses on land use, real estate and environmental law – on behalf of the Hadley family, which has owned their property for more than 70 years.

The case is scheduled for trial before Judge Cheryl Carey at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent in December 2012. Answers from the city and the Cascade Land Conservancy are due July 5. No discovery by attorneys has yet been schedules.

Carson charges that Normandy Park and the conservancy are improperly acquiring at least 26 parcels of property along the Puget Sound shoreline – known as Beaconsfield on the Sound – that impact the Hadley’s home and land.

“A key requirement of both the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the King County Conservation Futures programs is that any grant funds used for conservation projects can only be used to acquire property from willing land owners,” he noted in a news release.

But, the complaint contends, the Hadleys are not willing owners.

And, Carson told The B-Town Blog, the conservancy “and the city never communicated to agencies funding the acquisitions” the fact that “the Hadley family owns and has maintained the bulkheads.”

Yet “title reports for the sale of these properties, prepared for [the conservancy], clearly state that the Hadleys are the owners of these bulkheads, and it’s hard to see how [the conservancy] or the City could have missed that,” he added.

Lisa Hadley-Colmenares said in the news release, “This property has been in our family for three generations and we are shocked at the [conservancy] and City’s deceptions to us and to the various public funding agencies.

“Had the public funding agencies been made aware of our position, they might have used these valuable funding resources toward other projects that met their criteria. We absolutely support environmental responsibility, yet not at the expense of putting citizens’ lives at risk.”

Normandy Park City Manager Doug Schulze told The B-Town Blog last week, “I can’t say a whole lot about it.” The city had only recently been served with the lawsuit and “our city attorney is reviewing it and will appear on the city’s behalf.

“I can’t say a whole lot about it” – Normandy Park City Manager Doug Schulze.

“But at this point I have not even received a briefing on what the lawsuit entirely entails,” Schulze said. “Basically it is related to a project the city has been involved in since 2003 or 2004 on an ongoing acquisition” of properties.

“The city had no discussions with the Hadleys of the Colmenares regarding this issue prior to the filing of the suit,” he added. “Had there been discussion, we may have been able to resolve a significant amount of the differences.”

Carson countered, however, that “the city is disingenuous when it says it has not had communication with the Hadleys. The city’s partner in these acquisitions, The Cascade Land Conservancy, communicated frequently with the Hadleys and the city was fully briefed.

He said internal city emails in 2008 “demonstrates that [the conservation group] and the city were fully aware of the Hadley’s intention not to sell.”

Carson added that this April he “communicated directly with Normandy Park City Attorney Jim Haney and general counsel for the conservancy and reiterated the Hadleys’ position. Neither attorney made any further attempts to discuss this matter with the Hadleys.

“Instead, the City continued to press forward with its acquisitions, forcing the Hadleys to take legal action.”

No monetary damages are being sought by the plaintiffs, who, Schulze noted, are looking “to quiet a title and for some prescriptive rights over some property.”

Carson said the owners of the properties in question granted bulkhead easements to the Hadleys in the 1950s, who built approximately 454 feet of concrete bulkheads.

“In the 1980s the City of Normandy Park granted permits to the Hadleys for additional shoreline protection and the Hadleys installed approximately another 371 feet of rock revetments.”

The city and the conservancy allegedly have been using state and King County funds to acquire property on the lower part of the Beaconsfield bluff, just below the Hadley family home.

“To date, over $1.4 million of taxpayer dollars and public funds have been used for the Beaconsfield on the Puget Sound Project,” Carson said.

“In early 2008, the Hadleys unequivocally communicated their decision not to sell their property or permit the removal of the bulkheads, and [the conservancy] informed the Hadleys that they would respect their wishes.”

“Long ago the legislature decided that the public interest is best served when working with the willing property owners,” he noted.

“Despite knowing that the Hadley family owned the bulkheads and were not interested in selling or having their bulkheads removed, the [conservancy] and the city of Normandy Park have represented to funders that acquisition of the properties further down the bluff, known as the ‘piano key,’ would give the city permission to take out the shoreline protection installed to reduce erosion of the hillside below the Hadley property.”

Yet the Cascade Land Conservancy “and the City never communicated the true owners of the bulkheads to Washington state or King County funders.”

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3 Responses to “Normandy Park, Cascade Land Conservancy Sued Over Removal Of Bulkheads”
  1. John says:

    Based on the and arctile the pacels acquired into the bulkheads are not on the Hadley’s but on propery owned by owner’s just putting improvments on someone else’s property doesn’t make it yours. The Hadley’s would need to acquire the property through proscriptive rights proceeding were it ws shown that it wsa openly known by all partities and even then a jury could require compension to the property owners the city and conservancy it isn’t such a similiar matter of the city taking their property since it isn’t theirs.

    • Robert says:

      The fact is that the easements that the Hadleys used to build the bulkheads were on the title reports for the parcels purchased by the City and the Cascade Land Conservancy. If you have an easement for a driveway you built on your neighbor’s property, your neighbor can sell his or her property but that doesn’t mean that the new owner can remove your driveway. This is exactly the same.

      Further, the City and Cascade Land Conservancy knew they were dealing with an unwilling property seller and didn’t mention this to the State or King County — despite specific rules allowing the grants to be used used only with willing sellers. This is not the kind of underhanded government behaviour I want in our City.

      • leigh fenster says:

        I agree! I’m sick of being totally deceived by the city I grew up in. It’s disgusting that the people running our city have their own private, personal goals and don’t seem to care what is best for the whole!

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