Chapter 21.15
HEARING EXAMINER

Sections:

21.15.010    Purpose.

21.15.020    Hearing examiner – Creation of office.

21.15.030    Appointment of hearing examiner.

21.15.040    Hearing examiner – Qualifications.

21.15.050    Hearing examiner pro-tem – Qualifications and duties.

21.15.060    Hearing examiner – Conflict of interest and freedom from improper influence.

21.15.070    Hearing examiner – Authority and duties.

21.15.080    Applications.

21.15.090    Report by community development department.

21.15.100    Public hearing.

21.15.110    Hearing examiner’s decision and recommendation – Findings required.

21.15.120    Reconsideration.

21.15.130    Appeal of hearing examiner’s decision.

21.15.140    Hearing examiner’s report.

21.15.010 Purpose.

The purpose of this chapter is to provide an administrative land use regulatory system which will separate the city’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. 1088 § 2 (Exh. A), 1998.]

21.15.020 Hearing examiner – Creation of office.

The office of the hearing examiner is created by the city. The hearing examiner shall interpret, review and implement land use regulations, hear appeals from orders, recommendations, permits, decisions or determinations made by a city official as set forth in this chapter, and review and hear other matters as provided for in this code and other ordinances. The term “hearing examiner” shall likewise include the hearing examiner pro-tem. [Ord. 1088 § 2 (Exh. A), 1998.]

21.15.030 Appointment of hearing examiner.

The hearing examiner shall be appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the mayor. This position will be a contracted position, reimbursement for which will be prescribed by the contract between the city and the hearing examiner. [Ord. 1088 § 2 (Exh. A), 1998.]

21.15.040 Hearing examiner – Qualifications.

The hearing 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 hearing examiner to conduct administrative or quasi-judicial hearings utilizing land use regulatory codes, must have expertise and experience in platting, and should have knowledge or experience in at least one of the following areas: environmental sciences, law, architecture, economics or engineering. [Ord. 1088 § 2 (Exh. A), 1998.]

21.15.050 Hearing examiner pro-tem – Qualifications and duties.

The hearing examiner pro-tem shall, in the event of the absence or the inability of the examiner to act, have all the duties and powers of the hearing examiner. The hearing examiner pro-tem shall have such training or experience as to satisfy LMC 21.15.040. [Ord. 1088 § 2 (Exh. A), 1998.]

21.15.060 Hearing examiner – Conflict of interest and freedom from improper influence.

A. The hearing examiner shall not conduct or participate in any hearing or decision in which the hearing examiner has a direct or indirect personal interest which might exert such influence upon the hearing examiner that might interfere with his or her decision-making process. Any actual or potential interest shall be disclosed to the parties immediately upon discovery of such conflict.

B. Participants in the land use regulatory process have the right, insofar as possible, to have the hearing examiner free from personal interest or prehearing contacts on land use regulatory matters considered by him or her. It is recognized that there is a countervailing public right to free access to public officials on any matter. Therefore, the hearing examiner shall reveal any substantial interest or prehearing contact made with him or her concerning the proceeding, at the commencement of such proceeding. If such interest or contact impairs the hearing examiner’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 such 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 such objection; therefore, this objection cannot be raised for the first time at any subsequent time.

D. The hearing examiner, 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 city council member, city official or any other person shall interfere with or attempt to influence the hearing examiner in the performance of his or her designated duties; provided, that a city official or employee may, in the performance of his/her own official duties, provide information for the hearing examiner or process a city case before the hearing examiner, when such actions take place or are disclosed in the hearing examiner’s hearing or meeting. [Ord. 1088 § 2 (Exh. A), 1998.]

21.15.070 Hearing examiner – Authority and duties.

A. The hearing 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 based on these facts for the following:

1. Preliminary plats;

2. Planned developments;

3. Rezones which are not of general applicability;

4. Applications for shoreline variances, conditional use permits and nonconforming use permits pursuant to the Shoreline Management Act and shorelines master program;

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. Appeals alleging an error in a decision of a city official in the interpretation or the enforcement of the zoning code or any other development regulation;

9. Appeals alleging an error in a decision of a city official in taking an action on a short plat or binding site plan;

10. Appeals alleging an error in administrative decisions or determinations pursuant to Chapter 43.21C RCW;

11. Appeals alleging an error in a decision of the Leavenworth design review board;

12. Any other matters as specifically assigned to the hearing examiner by the city council or as prescribed by the city code.

B. The decision of the hearing examiner on all matters is final and conclusive, unless appealed pursuant to Chapter 21.11 LMC.

C. The hearing examiner’s decision shall be based upon the policies of the comprehensive planning documents of the city, the standards set forth in the various development regulations of the city or any other applicable program adopted by the city council. When acting upon any of the above specific applications or appeals, the hearing examiner may grant or deny the application, or may attach reasonable conditions, modifications and restrictions found necessary to make the project compatible with its location and to carry out the goals and policies of the applicable comprehensive plan, or other applicable plans or programs adopted by the city council.

D. The hearing examiner shall conduct public hearings when required under the provisions of the State Environmental Policy Act, conduct public hearings relative to possible revocation of any conditional use permit, and conduct such other hearings or meetings as the city council may from time to time deem appropriate.

E. All references in the city code and elsewhere to the board of adjustment shall be construed as referring to the hearing examiner. [Ord. 1475 § 1 (Att. A), 2014; Ord. 1088 § 2 (Exh. A), 1998.]

21.15.080 Applications.

Applications for all matters to be heard by the hearing examiner shall be presented to the community development department, to be processed according to the applicable provisions of the LMC, including without limitation this title. The community development department shall be responsible for assigning a date for the public hearing for each application as required. The hearing 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. 1088 § 2 (Exh. A), 1998.]

21.15.090 Report by community development department.

The community development department shall coordinate and assemble the comments and recommendations of other applicable city officials and governmental agencies having an interest in the application, and shall prepare a report summarizing the factors involved and the community development department findings and recommendations. At least seven calendar days prior to the scheduled hearing, the report shall be filed with the hearing 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. 1088 § 2 (Exh. A), 1998.]

21.15.100 Public hearing.

A. Before rendering a decision on any application, the hearing 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 city code governing the application.

B. The hearing examiner shall have the authority to prescribe rules and regulations for the conduct of hearings before the hearing examiner, and also to administer oaths and to preserve order. [Ord. 1088 § 2 (Exh. A), 1998.]

21.15.110 Hearing examiner’s decision and recommendation – Findings required.

A. When the hearing examiner renders a decision or recommendation, he or she shall make and enter written 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 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 hearing examiner may establish the date and time at which the public record will close. The public record may be amended beyond the public hearing for the purpose of allowing written testimony to be submitted. The extension shall not exceed 10 working days after the conclusion of oral testimony. All decisions of the hearing examiner shall be rendered within 10 working days after the date the public record closes.

C. Upon issuance of the hearing examiner’s decision, the staff 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. 1088 § 2 (Exh. A), 1998.]

21.15.120 Reconsideration.

An applicant or party of record to a hearing examiner’s public hearing may seek reconsideration only of a final decision by filing a written request for reconsideration with the director within 10 days of the final decision. The request shall comply with LMC 21.11.030(B). The hearing examiner shall consider the request at the next regularly scheduled meeting, without public comment or argument by the party filing the request. If the request is denied, the previous action shall become final. If the request is granted, the hearing examiner may immediately revise and reissue its decision or may call for argument in accordance with the procedures for closed record appeals. Reconsideration should be granted only when an obvious legal error has occurred or a material factual issue has been overlooked that would change the previous decision. [Ord. 1088 § 2 (Exh. A), 1998.]

21.15.130 Appeal of hearing examiner’s decision.

The final decision by the hearing examiner on any matter within his/her jurisdiction may be appealed in accordance with Chapter 21.11 LMC. [Ord. 1088 § 2 (Exh. A), 1998.]

21.15.140 Hearing examiner’s report.

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

B. The hearing examiner shall briefly summarize the hearing examiner’s decisions and recommendations for each calendar year. [Ord. 1088 § 2 (Exh. A), 1998.]