Group says condos sailed through too easily

SEAVIEW - An ongoing dispute over the Pacific Crest Development, a 40-unit condominium project located off Willows Road in Seaview, has resulted in a lawsuit against Pacific County and developer Matthew Doney.

The lawsuit, filed Oct. 5, contends the county did not follow proper procedures for permitting the development and did not give adequate public notice about the project. It states the county only performed at SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) review after the project had been started, and only when a group of neighbors protested the lack of a SEPA review.

As a result, the lawsuit claims the project will have "probable, significant adverse environmental impacts (including, without limitation, impacts to shorelines, wetlands and surface water bodies, forest resources, critical riparian habitat, steep slopes, neighborhood livability, fish and wildlife habitat, watershed and aquifer recharge areas, and listed endangered species)."

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Friends of Seaview, formally known as Save Our Buttes, and Keith Swenson and Tracy Fleming, Seaview residents.

Jim Tongue, spokesperson for the group, said the lawsuit is more about how the county did not follow proper procedures, issuing too many permits retroactively and turning a blind eye to violations, rather than about the development itself.

"It's going along a little too fast and without input from the public," he said.

In a letter, Tongue states, "from the outset, to present, Pacific county has seemingly croneyed this project with this developer to avoid scrutiny."

As an example, he sites the improper cutting of 28 mature trees in a wetland buffer zone.

Michael DeSimone, director of community development for Pacific County, said the developer will be required to mitigate and restore the wetland buffer for that act. He said an after-the-fact permit was issued, and the developer would not be required to pay any fines for the cutting of the trees.

DeSimone said the developer has gone through the proper processes and permitting procedures.

"The facts are pretty well documented," he said.

Tongue disagrees. He said the group feels the lawsuit is their only recourse.

"We finally got to the frustration point that nothing from the county had credibility, whatever it is they say, we just can't trust," he wrote.

The group sees more at stake than one development; specifically how the county will conduct business and respond to public input in the future.

"We had to act," Tongue writes. "This development is just part of the picture."

As an example, he cites the rezoning of the Peninsula by the county, designating the Seaview dunes as a high density area, and the permit issued to Long Beach allowing the city to condemn some beachfront property for the extension of the Lewis and Clark Discovery Trail.

"This suit is a wake-up call," Tongue wrote. "Local officials need to realize our desire for an open, legal process."

No stop work order has been issued for the Pacific Crest Development, so DeSimone said he did not think the lawsuit would effect the pace of the work on the project at this time.

David Burke, the county prosecuting attorney, said the case will likely go before Superior Court Judge Joel Penoyar during the first part of November. At that time, the litigants will argue about the specifics of the lawsuit and the alleged violations.

"They've made some broad, sweeping claims," said Burke. "Basically, kind of a kitchen sink approach to things."

Burke said it is still unclear if Doney's lawyers will become involved in the case, which may effect the length of the review.

Since the lawsuit in this case is more of an appeal of a decision by the county, Burke said the case could move fairly quickly. He hopes the judge will arrive at a decision by the beginning of the new year.

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