Council bans hunting in North Bend

NORTH BEND - Hunting within the city limits is now illegal, following an ordinance passed Tuesday, May 21, by the North Bend City Council.

The ordinance also covers the wounding or trapping of animals, as well as discharging firearms within North Bend boundaries. City Administrator Phil Messina said the city was notified last fall by the King County Sheriff's Office North Bend substation that it had no hunting ban on the books.

"I think this is a great step forward for public safety in the city," said Councilman Mark Sollitto.

Firearms covered by the ordinance include pistols, rifles, shotguns, black-powder rifles and crossbows.

City Attorney Mike Kenyon said the ordinance does not override a person's right to defend family or property.

"This ordinance does not deny a resident's right to self-defense. You still have that right, and this ordinance does not impinge on that at all," he said.

Violating the hunting law would be a misdemeanor offense, with a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. The ordinance passed by a unanimous 4-0 vote.

The City Council also passed by a 3-1 vote a resolution detailing which land-use permits and appeal hearings will go before a hearing examiner. Sollitto voted against the resolution.

The resolution had been debated for several months by council members, the majority of whom said land-use decisions had grown too complex and they brought with them the possibility of legal actions against the city.

At the council's previous meeting, May 7, Kenyon said more and more cities are letting hearing examiners decide land-use issues because they were more knowledgeable.

"The trend over the past eight or 10 years has been quite strongly [toward] professional hearing examiners," he said.

Councilman Jack Webber, at the same meeting, said he was "taken aback by the complexity of what we're doing here, but also the legal ramifications" of the council making land-use decisions.

Under the resolution, open-record hearings or appeals will go to a hearing examiner. Closed-record appeals will be replaced by appeals directly to Superior Court.

The City Council will still decide preliminary plats, final plats and master site plans in closed-record hearings. Conditional-use permits and variances will be decided by a hearing examiner, with Kenyon saying they were "the most likely to end up in court."

Councilman Bill Wittress, who was absent from the May 21 meeting, said May 7 that it was the council's duty to make land-use decisions that affect North Bend.

"I am actually very, very disappointed that we have decided not to hear things at a local level. I think that's why we're elected," he said.

Also at the May 21 meeting, the City Council passed a resolution that authorized an application for the Unity Masonic Lodge No. 198 Free and Accepted Masons to be enrolled in King County's Public Benefit Rating System (PBRS).

The rating system provides tax breaks to private landowners to encourage the preservation of open spaces and culturally significant resources like the Masonic Lodge, which is designated as a historic landmark. The building is often used for community meetings, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, and by church groups.

Through PBRS, the Masonic Lodge will receive a 50 percent reduction on the land's assessed value, bringing the amount down to $21,250 and lowering the taxes the lodge has to pay each year.

Jack Webber said the PBRS program provides an incentive to property owners to maintain their historic buildings, while at the same time qualifying for a tax reduction.

"I would really encourage all historic areas and business owners to pursue this avenue," he said.

You can reach Barry Rochford at (425) 888-2311, or e-mail him at barry.rochford@valley

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