Chapter 2.13
HEARING EXAMINER

Sections:

2.13.010    Purpose.

2.13.020    Hearing examiner.

2.13.030    Appointment of examiner.

2.13.040    Examiner—Qualifications.

2.13.050    Deputy examiner— Qualifications and duties.

2.13.060    Examiner—Conflict of interest and freedom from improper influence.

2.13.070    Examiner—Authority and duties.

2.13.080    Report by the department of transportation and land services.

2.13.090    Public hearing.

2.13.100    Examiner’s decision and recommendation— Findings required.

2.13.110    Appeal of examiner’s decision.

2.13.130    Examiner’s report.

2.13.140    Multiple applications.

2.13.150    Reconsideration.

2.13.010 Purpose.

The purpose of this chapter is to provide an administrative land use regulatory system which will separate the county’s land use regulatory function from its land use planning function; ensure and expand the principles of fairness and due process in public hearings; and to provide an efficient and effective land use regulatory system which integrates the public hearing and decision making processes for land use matters. (Ord. TLS 97-05-34B Exh. B (part): Res. CE 93-034 (part))

2.13.020 Hearing examiner.

The office of the county hearing examiner, herein referred to as “examiner,” is created by the board of county commissioners. (Ord. TLS 97-05-34B Exh. B (part): Ord. 97-03-11B Exh. A (part): Res. CE 93-034 (part))

2.13.030 Appointment of examiner.

The examiner and the deputy examiner shall be appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the board of county commissioners. This position will be a contracted position, reimbursement for which will be prescribed by the contract between the board of county commissioners and the examiner. (Ord. TLS 97-05-34B Exh. B (part): Ord. 97-03-11B Exh. A (part): Res. CE 93-034 (part))

2.13.040 Examiner—Qualifications.

The examiner shall be appointed solely with regard to qualifications for the duties of such office and shall have such training or experience as will qualify the examiner to conduct administrative or quasi-judicial hearings utilizing land use regulatory codes and must have expertise and experience in planning, and should have knowledge or experience in at least one of the following areas: environmental sciences, law, architecture, economics or engineering. (Ord. TLS 97-05-34B Exh. B (part): Res. CE 93-034 (part))

2.13.050 Deputy examiner— Qualifications and duties.

The deputy examiner shall, in the event of the absence or the inability of the examiner to act, have all the duties and powers of the examiner. The deputy examiner shall have such training or experience as to satisfy DCC Section 2.13.040. (Ord. TLS 97-05-34B Exh. B (part): Res. CE 93-034 (part))

2.13.060 Examiner—Conflict of interest and freedom from improper influence.

A.    The examiner shall not conduct or participate in any hearing or decision in which the examiner or any of the following persons has a direct or substantial financial interest:

1.    The examiner’s spouse, brother, sister, child, parent, in-laws, partner; any business in which the examiner is then serving or has served within the previous two years; or

2.    Any business with which such examiner is negotiating for or has an arrangement or understanding concerning possible partnership or employment. Any actual or potential interest shall be disclosed prior to such hearing.

B.    Participants in the land use regulatory process have the right, insofar as possible, to have the examiner, deputy examiner and board of county commissioners free from personal interest or prehearing contacts on land use regulatory matters considered by them. It is recognized that there is a countervailing public right to free access to public officials on any matter. Therefore, the examiner and board of county commissioners shall reveal any substantial interest or prehearing contact made with them concerning the proceeding, at the commencement of such proceeding. If such interest or contact impairs the examiner’s or board of county commissioners member’s ability to act on the matter, such person shall so state and shall abstain therefrom to the end that the proceeding is fair and has the appearance of fairness.

C.    Immediately after the announcement of any interest or prehearing contact, any person who objects to the interest or prehearing contact shall state the objection and any reasons supporting the objection. The failure to state such an objection at the time of announcement is deemed to be a waiver of the objection, therefore, this objection cannot be raised for the first time at any subsequent time.

D.    The examiner, deputy examiner, or board of commissioners member, upon hearing an objection, shall personally decide whether the interest or contact will impair his or her ability to be fair and impartial, and shall hear the case or abstain accordingly.

E.    No county commissioner, county official, or any other person shall interfere with or attempt to influence the examiner or deputy examiner in the performance of their designated duties; provided, that a county official or employee may, in the performance of his own official duties, provide information for the examiner or process a county case before the examiner, when such actions take place or are disclosed in the examiner’s hearing or meeting. (Ord. TLS 97-05-34B Exh. B (part): Ord. 97-03-11B Exh. A (part): Res. CE 93-034 (part))

2.13.070 Examiner—Authority and duties.

A.    The examiner shall receive and examine available relevant information, including environmental documents, conduct public hearings, cause preparation of a record thereof, prepare and enter findings and conclusions for:

1.    Preliminary plats;

2.    Applications for shoreline management substantial development permits, variances, conditional use permits and nonconforming use permits pursuant to the shoreline management act and shoreline master program;

3.    Appeals alleging an error in a decision of the director of land services in the interpretation or the enforcement of violations of the zoning code or any other development regulation;

4.    Appeals alleging an error in a decision by the director of land services in taking an action on a short plat or binding site plan;

5.    Applications for variances, conditional use permits, permits for the alteration, expansion or replacement of a nonconforming use, and waivers;

6.    Amendments and/or alterations to plats;

7.    Petitions for plat vacations;

8.    Decisions made in the capacity of the Douglas County building code board of appeals;

9.    Applications requesting establishment or amendment of recreational overlay zoning districts;

10.    Any other matters as specifically assigned to the examiner by the board of county commissioners or as prescribed by the Douglas County Code.

B.    The decision of the examiner on all matters is final and conclusive, unless appealed pursuant to DCC Section 2.13.110.

C.    The examiner’s decision shall be based upon the policies of the applicable comprehensive plan, shoreline master program, the standards set forth in the various development regulations of the county or any other applicable program adopted by the board of county commissioners. When acting upon any of the above specific applications or appeals, the examiner and/or board of county commissioners may attach reasonable conditions found necessary to make the project compatible with its location and to carry out the goals and policies of the applicable comprehensive plan, shoreline master program, or other applicable plans or programs adopted by the board of county commissioners. (Ord. TLS 01-01-04B Exh. B (part): Ord. TLS 97-05-34B Exh. B (part): Ord. 97-03-11B Exh. A (part); Res. CE 93-034 (part))

2.13.080 Report by the department of transportation and land services.

When an application has been scheduled for a public hearing, the department of transportation and land services, herein referred to as “department,” shall coordinate and assemble the comments and recommendations of other county departments and governmental agencies having an interest in the application. The department shall prepare a report summarizing the factors involved and the findings and recommendations of the department. At least ten days prior to the scheduled hearing, the report shall be filed with the examiner and copies thereof shall be mailed to the applicant and shall be made available to any interested party at the cost of reproduction. (Ord. TLS 97-05-34B Exh. B (part): Ord. 97-03-11B Exh. A (part): Res. CE 93-034 (part))

2.13.090 Public hearing.

A.    Before rendering a decision on any application, the examiner shall hold at least one public hearing thereon. Notice of the time and place of the public hearing shall be given as provided in the applicable county code governing the application.

B.    The examiner shall have the power to prescribe rules and regulations for the conduct of hearings before the examiner, and also to administer oaths and to preserve order. (Ord. TLS 97-05-34B Exh. B (part): Res. CE 93-034 (part))

2.13.100 Examiner’s decision and recommendation—Findings required.

A.    When the examiner renders a decision or recommendation, the examiner shall make and enter findings from the record and conclusions thereof, which support such decision, and the findings and conclusions shall set forth and demonstrate the manner in which the decision or recommendation carries out and helps to implement the goals and policies of the comprehensive plan and the standards set forth in the various land use regulatory codes.

B.    At the conclusion of oral testimony at a public hearing the examiner may establish the date and time at which the public record will close. The public record may be extended beyond the public hearing for the purpose of allowing written testimony to be submitted. The extension shall not exceed five working days after the conclusion of oral testimony. All decisions of the examiner shall be rendered within ten working days after the date the public record closes.

C.    Upon issuance of the examiner’s decision, the department shall transmit a copy of the decision by certified mail to the applicant and send a notice of the decision by first class mail to other interested parties requesting the same. (Ord. TLS 97-05-34B Exh. B (part): Ord. 97-03-11B Exh. A (part); Res. CE 93-034 (part))

2.13.110 Appeal of examiner’s decision.

The final decision by the examiner on any matter within his jurisdiction, except permits processed pursuant to Chapter 90.58 RCW, may be appealed in accordance with DCC Chapter 14.12. Permits processed pursuant to Chapter 90.58 RCW may be appealed in accordance to that chapter. (Ord. TLS 01-01-04B Exh. B (part): Ord. TLS 97-05-34B Exh. B (part): Ord. 97-03-11B Exh. A (part): Res. CE 93-034 (part))

2.13.130 Examiner’s report.

A.    The hearing examiner shall meet at least once per calendar year with the board of commissioners and the planning commission for the purpose of reviewing the policies contained in the comprehensive plans and the administration of these policies.

B.    The examiner shall briefly summarize the examiner’s decisions and recommendations for each calendar year. (Ord. TLS 97-05-34B Exh. B (part): Res. CE 93-034 (part))

2.13.140 Multiple applications.

The examiner may consider two or more applications relating to a single project concurrently, and the findings of fact, conclusions and decision on each application may be covered in one written decision. (Ord. TLS 97-05-34B Exh. B (part): Res. CE 93-034 (part))

2.13.150 Reconsideration.

A.    Any aggrieved party or agency of record may request a reconsideration of a hearing examiner decision. Requests for reconsideration may be granted by the hearing examiner upon demonstration of one or more of the following:

1.    Irregularity in the proceedings by which the moving party was prevented from having a fair hearing;

2.    Newly discovered evidence of a material nature which could not, with reasonable diligence, have been produced at hearing;

3.    Error in the computation or any monetary element of the decision;

4.    Clear mistake as to a material fact;

5.    Clear error as to the law, which should be corrected in the interests of justice.

B.    Motions for reconsideration must be filed with the department within ten days from the date of issuance as defined by RCW 36.70C.040(4)(a), together with the applicable reconsideration fee. If a motion for reconsideration is filed, the date of the final decision by the hearing examiner occurs on the date a decision is entered on the motion for reconsideration, and not the date of the original decision for which the motion for reconsideration was filed.

C.    The hearing examiner shall act upon the reconsideration request within ten working days by:

1.    Approving the request with revised findings and/or conditions; or

2.    Setting the matter for an additional public hearing. Motions for reconsideration may be scheduled for consideration at a regular or special hearing date, at the discretion of the examiner. Public notice of a reconsideration hearing shall be in conformance with DCC Section 14.10.040; or

3.    Denying the request.

D.    A request for reconsideration is not a prerequisite to filing an appeal under DCC Section 2.13.110. (Ord. TLS 10-08-39B: Ord. TLS 08-10-46 (part))