Chapter 15.12


15.12.010    Purpose.

15.12.020    Definitions.

15.12.030    Selection – Contract.

15.12.040    Qualifications – Removal.

15.12.050    Term.

15.12.060    Ex parte contract – Disclosure – Conflict of interest.

15.12.070    Annual report – Rules – Application for consideration.

15.12.080    Computation of time period.

15.12.090    Time periods – Procedures.

15.12.100    Decision – Reconsideration.

15.12.110    Matters to be decided.

15.12.120    Recommendations to town council.

15.12.130    Appeal of administrative decision.

15.12.140    Appeal of hearing examiner or town council decision.

15.12.010 Purpose.

The purpose of this chapter is to:

(1) Separate the land use regulatory function from the land use planning process;

(2) Ensure procedural due process and appearance of fairness of land use regulatory hearings and decisions;

(3) Provide and efficient and effective land use regulatory system which integrates the public hearing and decision-making processes for land use matters;

(4) Provide for consistency and predictability in land use decision-making and the application of policies and regulations adopted by the town;

(5) Establish clear and understandable rules governing the land use decision-making process. [Ord. 686 § 1, 1996.]

15.12.020 Definitions.

In interpreting the words and phrases within this chapter, it is the intention of this section to provide specific definitions as well as general guidelines for use and interpretation of words or phrases. Generally, the following shall apply:

(1) The words and phrases defined herein when used in this chapter shall have the meaning given to them within these definitions or this chapter, unless their context clearly indicates that they are to have some other meaning.

(2) A word or phrase not defined within this chapter but defined within some other section or portion of the town’s land use control ordinances shall have the meaning or definition given in that town’s land use control ordinances unless the context clearly indicates that it is to have some other meaning.

(a) “Planner” means the town staff person assigned by the mayor or by a job description approved by the town to be the administrator of this title.

(b) “Applicant” means any person or entity applying to the town for approval of land uses that conform to the town’s goals, policies, plans, and programs of development.

(c) “Town” means the town of La Conner, Washington.

(d) “Council” means the La Conner town council.

(e) “Decision” or “final decision,” when used in this chapter or any ordinance or code section relating to the powers and responsibilities of the examiner, means the final action of the examiner or, to the extent applicable, if any, the town council. Utilization of the term or terms shall in no way be deemed to restrict the powers and authority of the council and mayor as they may be granted by the laws and ordinances of the town to accept the final decision of the examiner as a recommendation and to proceed with his, her or their role in the decision-making process.

(f) “Department” means town of La Conner planning department.

(g) “Examiner” or “hearing examiner” means the hearing examiner of the town of La Conner.

(h) “Ex parte communication” means written or oral communications not included in the public record and made outside of a public hearing.

(i) “Party of record” means:

(i) The applicant or his, her, or its designated agent;

(ii) Any person or entity submitting written comments or attending a public hearing, who requests notification of the examiner’s decision.

(j) “Service,” except as otherwise provided in this chapter or required by the particular circumstances of the use of the term, means posting in the United States mail, properly addressed, postage prepaid, commercial parcel delivery company, or personal service. Service by mail is complete the second day, not counting or including weekends or legal holidays following deposit in the United States mail. Personal service or service by a commercial parcel delivery company is complete upon delivery to the party or an individual upon whom service of a summons and complaint would be valid under the laws and decisions of this state.

(k) “Staff” means employees of the departments of the town of La Conner, Washington. [Ord. 686 § 2, 1996.]

15.12.030 Selection – Contract.

The examiner shall be selected by the mayor subject to confirmation by the town council. The examiner may be retained under a professional services contract for a term and on conditions determined appropriate by the mayor. The contract may also provide for examiners pro tem to serve in the absence of the examiner under such terms and conditions deemed appropriate by the mayor. The contracts shall be approved by the council. [Ord. 686 § 3, 1996.]

15.12.040 Qualifications – Removal.

Examiners shall be appointed solely with regard to their qualifications for the duties of their office and will have such training and experience as will qualify them to conduct administrative or quasi-judicial hearings on regulatory enactments and to discharge the other functions conferred upon them. Examiners shall hold no other elective or appointive office or position with the town, except for the office of municipal court judge. An examiner may be removed from office for cause by the mayor, however, such removal shall not affect the ability of the examiner to complete any cases for which he or she has already undertaken the hearing. [Ord. 689 § 1, 1996; Ord. 686 § 4, 1996.]

15.12.050 Term.

The term of appointment for the examiner and any deputy examiner shall be for a period of four years or until his or her successor has been appointed and confirmed, subject to termination as provided in LCMC 15.12.040. Temporary examiners may be appointed for such terms and functions as the mayor and council deem appropriate. [Ord. 686 § 5, 1996.]

15.12.060 Ex parte contract – Disclosure – Conflict of interest.

(1) In order to assure an appearance of fairness in matters considered by the examiner, no person shall have an ex parte contact with the examiner regarding such matter and no person, including governmental officials and employees, shall attempt to interfere with or influence the examiner outside of public hearing; provided, that a town official or employee may, in the performance of his or her officials duties, provide information to the examiner when the action is disclosed at the hearing or meeting to the extent that disclosure is required by law.

(2) No examiner shall conduct or participate in any hearing or decision in which the examiner may have a direct or indirect financial or personal interest or in which any such conduct or participation would violate any rule of law applicable thereto. [Ord. 686 § 6, 1996.]

15.12.070 Annual report – Rules – Application for consideration.

The examiner shall annually, on or before December 31st, submit a report to the planning commission concerning the conduct of the examiner’s office and any recommendations appropriate for effective administration of the examiner’s office and the town’s land use controls. The examiner shall appear before the planning commission no sooner than 30 days nor later than 60 days thereafter to discuss said report. The examiner shall prescribe a regular calendar and special setting of matters and rules for the scheduling and conduct of hearings and other rules or procedure. The planner shall schedule matters pursuant to the rules. The clerk-treasurer or his or her designee shall provide all required notices of hearings. [Ord. 686 § 7, 1996.]

15.12.080 Computation of time period.

In computing any period of time prescribed by this chapter within which an act is to be done, the time shall be computed as follows: The first day shall be excluded and the last day shall be included, unless the last day is a holiday, a Saturday, or a Sunday, in which case that day is also excluded. Time periods of six days or less shall not include weekends or legal holidays. [Ord. 686 § 8, 1996.]

15.12.090 Time periods – Procedures.

(1) Unless a different time period or procedure is established by a particular code section directly applicable to a specific type of proceeding, the following time periods and procedures shall be applicable to actions and decisions of the examiner. To the extent that there are any inconsistencies between this section and those other applicable code sections, the provisions of the other code sections shall control.

Within 10 business days of the conclusion of a hearing, unless a longer period is mutually agreed to by the applicant and the examiner or established by the specific provision governing such matters, the examiner shall render a written decision which shall include findings, conclusions and, where appropriate, conditions all based on the record. The decision of the examiner shall be final and conclusive unless appealed pursuant to LCMC 15.12.140 and applicable state law.

(2) The decision shall be served upon the applicant and any other individual or entity who or which has been given status as a party of record, such service to be to the last known address of the applicant or party of record in one of the manners provided by this chapter.

(3) Any decision affirming the imposition of a civil penalty shall create a personal monetary obligation to the town of La Conner which may be enforced or collected by any legal means by the town attorney or assignee of the town. The town or its assignee shall, in any action to collect, receive its costs and attorney fees, including any appeals. The penalty shall, if unpaid, accrue interest at a rate of 12 percent per annum commencing the sixteenth day after the hearing examiner’s decision. [Ord. 1222 § 2, 2023; Ord. 839 § 28, 2001; Ord. 696 § 1, 1997; Ord. 686 § 9, 1996.]

15.12.100 Decision – Reconsideration.

The town or any party of record, who or which disagrees with the decision of the examiner, may make a written request for reconsideration by the examiner within five business days of the date of service of the written decision unless a different period of reconsideration is established by the particular section involved, in which case such specific section shall control. The request for reconsideration shall be filed with the clerk-treasurer upon forms adopted by the town of La Conner and must on its face show that the requestor is a party of record or the town and must allege a specific error of law and/or fact. If the application is adequate and if the examiner chooses to reconsider, the examiner may take such further action as the examiner deems proper and may render a revised decision. Such reconsideration by the examiner shall be made within 10 business days of receipt of the request for reconsideration, unless a longer period is mutually agreed between the town and the examiner. Upon a decision deciding the request for reconsideration, the decision shall be deemed to be the final decision of the examiner for all purposes. The decision upon a request for reconsideration shall be served in the same manner as the original decision. All notices requesting reconsideration shall be filed within the initial five days and there shall be no right to request reconsideration of the examiner’s reconsideration of a decision. The costs applying to any reconsideration shall be borne by the individual requesting the reconsideration. [Ord. 1222 § 2, 2023; Ord. 1211 § 2(A), 2022; Ord. 686 § 10, 1996.]

15.12.110 Matters to be decided.

A hearing examiner shall hear and decide matters assigned to the examiner by the council, including but not limited to the following land use matters:

(1) Such matters as may be prescribed pursuant to the town’s land use control ordinances;

(2) Permits as specified under LCMC 15.135.050 Table A. [Ord. 1197 § 2 (Exh. A), 2021; Ord. 743 § 2, 1999; Ord. 686 § 11, 1996.]

15.12.120 Recommendations to town council.

The hearing examiner shall make recommendations to the town council which shall take final action with respect to the following matters:

(1) Recommendations for final long plat approval;

(2) Parcel specific/non-area-wide rezone request where no comprehensive plan amendment is required. [Ord. 842 § 13, 2002; Ord. 686 § 12, 1996.]

15.12.130 Appeal of administrative decision.

(1) The hearing examiner shall hear and make a final decision with respect to all appeals of decisions made by the planning director pursuant to the town’s land use control ordinances or the public works director pursuant to the town’s utility and street development standards. Any such appeals must be filed with the clerk-treasurer no later than 10 days after date of service of the written administrative decision. Any such appeal shall contain the filing fee and, at a minimum, the following information:

(a) Name, address and daytime telephone number of the appellant and/or any representative;

(b) The decision or order, or part(s) thereof, being appealed;

(c) A precise statement as to why the appellant feels himself or herself aggrieved;

(d) A statement of the relief requested;

(e) A statement of any applicable legal authority.

(2) The filing fee must accompany the filing for the appeal for the examiner to acquire jurisdiction over the matter.

(3) If an appeal is upheld by the hearing examiner the filing fee will be refunded to the appellant and/or representative. [Ord. 1096 § 1, 2013; Ord. 898 § 6, 2003; Ord. 867, 2002; Ord. 839 § 29, 2001; Ord. 686 § 13, 1996.]

15.12.140 Appeal of hearing examiner or town council decision.

The action of the hearing examiner or the town council in any decision shall be final and conclusive unless:

(1) Within 21 calendar days from the date of action by the hearing examiner or town council, a party of record or the town complies with the requirements of the Land Use Petition Act; or

(2) If the action is not one properly appealed under the Land Use Petition Act, within 10 calendar days of date of decision by the hearing examiner a party of record or the town files a writ of review with the Skagit County superior court;

(3) In the case of shoreline conditional use permits and variances and enforcement thereof, within such times as prescribed by Chapter 90.58 RCW (Washington State Shoreline Management Act) a party of record or the town files the appropriate appeal with the Washington State Shoreline Hearings Board; and

(4) Recommendations by the examiner pursuant to LCMC 15.12.120 are not appealable. [Ord. 1197 § 2 (Exh. A), 2021; Ord. 686 § 14, 1996.]