SEAVIEW - Seven Seaview property owners are fighting tooth and nail with the city of Long Beach over condemnations for easements for its avidly planned Discovery Trail.
The 8.2 mile recreational trail is currently under construction and is slated to run from north Long Beach all the way to Beards Hollow in Ilwaco. The city of Long Beach's target date for completion of the trail is this Memorial Day, but opposition to the trail in Seaview still could delay the project or eventually change its course.
A Jan. 14 ruling by Pacific County Superior Court Judge Joel Penoyar in South Bend resulted in condemnations being given the green light, but a handful of those who fought and lost against the city are appealing the case, according to attorney LeAnne Bremer, who is representing them.
Bremer represented six of the seven property owners in Superior Court, who were joined by a seventh who is also vowing to fight Penoyar's Jan. 14 ruling in favor of the city of Long Beach.
The appeal was filed by Bremer on behalf of the seven property owners on Feb. 19 in the state's Court of Appeals Division II, which is located in Tacoma.
"It's a good thing people don't give up after the first judge," said Bremer. "A lot of cases get overturned in appeal - and this could be one of them."
Bremer said it could be six months to a year before the case is heard in the Court of Appeals, but noted that condemnation cases have been known to be given "some priority under the law," so it could be sooner.
According to Bremer, she was not taken totally by surprise by Penoyar's ruling, which was based on the fact that Long Beach is just one of many "code cities" in the state, which are organized under RCW Chapter 35A. Penoyar said the power that code cities have under this chapter, for actions such as condemnations, is much broader than what was enjoyed under previous law.
"In sum, the law as enacted by the Legislature allows the city of Long Beach to condemn the subject property," said Penoyar. "Whether this is a good policy is not a question for the court."
Another problem Penoyar found with the arguments against the condemnations was a 1990 case, The City of Bellevue v. Pointer, which set forth the effect of these broad code city powers.
Shortly after Penoyar's ruling, Bremer said she still stood by her arguments that the city of Long Beach doesn't have the authority to condemn property outside of its jurisdiction for a project such as a recreational trail. In an interview this week she said she still stands by this argument.
"We acknowledge the Bellevue case, but we thought we had other authority which trumped that case," said Bremer. "There are Washington Supreme Court cases which support our arguments. If there weren't, we wouldn't have filed an appeal. I have always felt very strongly that we had good arguments on our side."
Bremer said at this time there has not been any discussion of filing a stay that would temporarily block construction of the trail pending appeal.
She said if it turns out that the Court of Appeals rules in favor of her seven clients, it won't affect about nine other Seaview property owners who didn't participate in the earlier legal challenge in Penoyar's court.
"It is too late for them to challenge it," said Bremer.
Initially, 20 Seaview property owners opposed the city, but four decided to grant easements before the Jan. 14 hearing in Superior Court in South Bend, where Penoyar heard testimony from both sides.
Six property owners represented by Bremer challenged the city's authority, and lost. Ten others, who didn't respond to papers they were served or didn't have legal council at the hearing, ended up having their properties condemned. Together, these 16 Seaview property owners had 30 days to appeal once Penoyar's ruling was finalized.
Long Beach City Administ-rator Nabiel Shawa said shortly after the Jan. 14 ruling he was obviously very happy, and cited that getting the green light to move ahead with construction of the Seaview portion of the trail has been a long process. He said last week that there are no plans to delay construction of the trail in Seaview regardless of the appeal.
At this time, the U.S. Army National Guard is busy working on the trail in the Beards Hollow area and will work its way north toward Long Beach. This week, pilings are scheduled to be driven for a short boardwalk across a wetland at Beards Hollow, a major step toward completing the segment of trail from Ilwaco to the ocean.
The Discovery Trail as planned will be a 10-feet wide 8.2-mile paved asphalt path which will cut through the dunes from north Long Beach, through Seaview to Beards Hollow, up to the existing overlook and across SR 100 and through the Discovery Heights golf and housing project to the Port of Ilwaco.
The trail will also include two bridges, which will comprise the biggest expense for the project. One will be 30 feet in length and traverse the Red Lake out-fall, and a 20-foot bridge will be constructed in Beards Hollow.
Plans for the trail also include a number of statues and monuments, as well as numerous trail connections, which will include 26th Street NW, 16th Street NW, Bolstad/10th Street NW, 17th Street SW, the Seaview Beach Approach, Beards Hollow and Fort Canby State Park.
The concept for the Discovery Trail project is one which first showed up in the 1980s.