Land petition lawsuit dismissed; citizen on hook for legal costs

Judge rules land use petition of Salish Expansion is “not well-grounded in fact.”

A King County Superior Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought against the city of Snoqualmie regarding the Salish Lodge and Spa expansion, and the plaintiff must now pay the city $10,873 in legal fees.

On Nov. 19, 2018, Jane Storrs filed a Land Use Petition against the city of Snoqualmie’s approval of the Salish Expansion project. In response, city attorney Bob Sterbank sent Storrs a letter requesting the withdrawal of the petition, which she declined.

The case went to the King County Superior Court where Judge David Keenan dismissed Storrs’ case in the first motion hearing on Jan. 18, 2019. In the second hearing, held on Feb. 27, Keenan ordered Storrs to pay $10,873 to the city of Snoqualmie in legal services rendered in the defense process.

“Based on legal advice, we saw a chance and took it because of the potential benefit to this community,” Storrs said of the petition.

In her original Land Use Petition, Storrs cites a claim made in November of 2018 that the project size was misrepresented to the city and citizens, and the actual project size was double the number presented to citizens. The claim had been refuted by the city and could not be verified through multiple investigations by the Record. Storrs also cited concerns of impacts to city infrastructure and services and potential impact to the fish hatchery at Tokul Creek.

In a statement to the Record, Storrs said she hoped to force a better review of the project as a way to avoid potential environmental risks.

“I filed a land use appeal because I want to ensure that the Salish Expansion is really sustainable for the city of Snoqualmie,” she wrote. “I want to protect our Valley and our stunning natural resources and wildlife. I want the public to be as safe as possible on our roads. And I want the city to be more vigilant and transparent in its decision making around this project and the impacts on us all.”

In the Judge’s order, Keenan states Storrs’ suit was “not well-grounded in fact or warranted by existing law or a good faith argument for reversal.” He also said the city was entitled compensation for the fees and costs associated with Sterbank and attorneys from Kenyon Disend in defense of the city.

The judge also ruled that the total cost of legal services, as calculated by the city’s finance department, was reasonable and the number of hours spent in securing the outcome of the litigation was also reasonable.

The city initially requested $24,211 in fees not only for the city attorney’s costs but for additional legal services from outside the city. The judge decided only to charge the hourly rate of pay plus benefits of the city attorney, dropping the total down to $10,873.

According to city manager Bob Larson, the city will wait to see if the legal services are paid, and if not, the decision on how to proceed will be discussed by the city council during an executive session at its March 11 meeting.

While disappointed in the court’s decision, Storrs is exploring what legal rights she may have to respond. She was given 10 days from Feb. 27, to pay the ordered amount.

On Tuesday, March 5, Storrs said she will pay the legal fee, and added that attempts to intimidate her through legal penalty would not work.

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