Chapter 20.36


20.36.010    Purpose.

20.36.020    Administrative responsibility.

20.36.030    General conduct of public hearings – Attendance.

20.36.040    Conflict of interest, ethics, open public meetings, appearance of fairness.

20.36.050    Ex parte communications.

20.36.060    Disqualification.

20.36.065    Consideration of environmental impacts.

20.36.070    Burden and nature of proof.

20.36.080    Order of proceedings.

20.36.090    Findings and notice of decision/action.

20.36.010 Purpose.

The purpose of this Chapter is to establish procedural requirements for the conduct of public hearings and to provide the opportunity for interested parties to present and rebut testimony and evidence which relates to published standards and criteria as provided in this code.

20.36.020 Administrative responsibility.

The development services director shall have the following responsibilities:

A. Schedule the application for review and public hearing.

B. Give notice as provided in Chapter 20.14 and Title 21.

C. Prepare the staff report on the application. The report shall be a single report stating all decisions made as of the date of the report, including recommendations on any project permits in the consolidated permit process that do not require an open record pre-decision hearing. The report shall state any mitigation required or proposed under the city’s development regulations or authority under SEPA. If the threshold determination other than a determination of significance has not been issued previously by the city, the report shall include or append this determination.

D. Prepare the Notice of Decision, if required by the hearing body, and/or mail a copy of the notice to those required by this code to receive such decision. (Ord. 2008-06 § 54, 2008).

20.36.030 General conduct of public hearings – Attendance.

A. Public hearings shall be conducted in a business-like manner. Disruptive or abusive conduct will be grounds for immediate suspension of the proceedings. The right to present and rebut testimony and evidence is limited to the decision criteria specified in this code and related law. Testimony which is not related to the standards and criteria of this code cannot be considered by the Hearing Body or Approving Authority in the decision.

B. The applicant or duly authorized representative for Level III and IV applications is required to attend the public hearing in order to answer any questions the Hearing Body or interested parties may have regarding the proposal. Failure to attend or be represented shall be grounds for postponement or discontinuance of the proceedings.

20.36.040 Conflict of interest, ethics, open public meetings, appearance of fairness.

The Hearing Body shall be subject to the Code of Conduct (WWMC Chapter 2.21), Code of Ethics (RCW 35A.42.020), prohibitions on Conflict of Interest (RCW 35A.42.020 and RCW 42.23), Open Public Meetings (RCW 42.30), and Appearance of Fairness (RCW 42.36), all as the same now exist or may hereafter be amended.

20.36.050 Ex parte communications.

A. Quasi-judicial land use decisions of the Hearing Body shall be subject to RCW 42.36, the Appearance of Fairness doctrine.

B. During the pendency of any quasi-judicial proceeding, no member of a decision making body may engage in ex parte communications with opponents or proponents with respect to the proposal which is the subject of the proceeding unless that person:

1. Places on record the substance of any written or oral ex parte communications concerning the decision action;

2. Provides that a public announcement of the content of the communication and of the parties’ rights to rebut the substance of the communication shall be made at each hearing where action is considered or taken on the subject to which the communication related.

This prohibition does not preclude a member of a decision making body from seeking in a public hearing specific information or data from such parties relative to the decision if both the request and the results are part of the record. Nor does such prohibition preclude correspondence between a citizen and his or her elected official if any such correspondence is made a part of the record when it pertains to the subject matter of a quasi-judicial proceeding.

20.36.060 Disqualification.

A. No member of the Hearing Body may be disqualified by the Appearance of Fairness doctrine for conducting the business of his or her office with any constituent on any matter other than a quasi-judicial action then pending before the Hearing Body.

B. Prior to declaring as a candidate for public office or while campaigning for public office as defined by RCW 42.17.020(5) and (25), no public discussion or expression of an opinion by a person subsequently elected to a public office, on any pending or proposed quasi-judicial actions, shall be a violation of the Appearance of Fairness doctrine.

C. Anyone seeking to rely upon the Appearance of Fairness doctrine to disqualify a member of a decision making body from participating in a decision must raise the challenge as soon as the basis for disqualification is made known to the individual. Where the basis is known or should reasonably have been known prior to the issuance of a decision and is not raised, it may not be relied on to invalidate the decision.

D. In the event of a challenge to a member or members of the Hearing Body which would cause a lack of a quorum or would result in a failure to obtain a majority vote as required by law, any such challenged member(s) shall be permitted to fully participate in the proceeding and vote as though the challenge had not occurred, if the member(s) publicly disclose the basis for disqualification prior to rendering a decision. Such participation shall be subject the decision to a challenge by reason of violation of the Appearance of Fairness doctrine.

20.36.065 Consideration of environmental impacts.

The public hearing upon a proposal shall be open to consideration of the environmental impacts of the proposal together with any environmental document that is available. This does not require extension of the comment periods for environmental documents, and this does not extend the time for appeal of SEPA determinations specified in Section 21.08.170. (Ord. 2008-06 § 55, 2008).

20.36.070 Burden and nature of proof.

A. Except for Level V and VI legislative actions, the burden of proof for demonstrating by substantial evidence that the application is consistent with the applicable regulations is on the proponent. The application must be supported by proof that it:

1. Conforms to the applicable standards and criteria of this code;

2. Conforms to the policies adopted by reference in Section 21.08.160;

3. Has adequately addressed environmental impacts under SEPA (when required).

B. The appellant(s) shall have the burden of proof in administrative appeals as provided in Section 20.38.060. (Ord. 2008-06 § 56, 2008).

20.36.080 Order of proceedings.

The order of proceedings for a public hearing will depend, in part, on the nature of the hearing. The following shall be supplemented by administrative procedures as appropriate.

A. Before receiving information on the issue, the following shall be determined:

1. Any objections on jurisdictional grounds shall be noted on the record and if there is objection, the Hearing Body has the discretion to proceed or terminate.

2. Any abstentions or disqualifications shall be determined.

B. The presiding officer may take official notice of known information related to the issue, such as:

1. A provision of any ordinance, resolution, rule, officially adopted development standard or state law;

2. Other public records and facts judicially noticeable by law.

C. Matters officially noticed need not be established by evidence and may be considered by the Hearing Body in its determination. Parties requesting notice shall do so on the record. However, the Hearing Body may take notice of matters listed in subsection (B) of this Section if stated for the record. Any matter given official notice may be rebutted.

D. The Hearing Body may view the area in dispute with or without notification to the parties, but shall place the time, manner and circumstances of such view on the record.

E. Information shall be received from the staff and from proponents and opponents. The presiding officer may approve or deny a request from a person attending the hearing to ask a question. Unless the presiding officer specifies otherwise, if the request to ask a question is approved, the presiding officer will direct the question to the person submitting testimony.

F. The Hearing Body may continue a hearing to a date and time specified if it determines that additional factual information is necessary to make a decision.

G. When the presiding officer has closed the public hearing portion of the hearing, the Hearing Body shall openly discuss the issue and may further question a person submitting information or the staff if opportunity for rebuttal is provided.

20.36.090 Findings and notice of decision/action.

A. Following the public hearing procedure described in Section 20.36.080, the approving authority shall approve, conditionally approve, or deny the application based on findings that address or relate to the applicable standards and criteria of this code and other referenced chapters of the Walla Walla Municipal Code and the Comprehensive Plan.

B. The approving authority’s written decision or action shall be issued as soon as practicable following the hearing and within the time required by Section 20.14.090.

C. Notice of decision shall be given as provided in Section 20.14.090. (Ord. 2008-06 § 57, 2008).