Innovation and cooperation among King County's Department of Development and Environmental Services, a Fall City property owner and King County's Alternative Dispute Resolution has produced two agreements which allow a property owner to apply for permits for elaborate tree houses along the Raging River that will serve as bed and breakfast facilities.
Partnership between King County's Department of Development and Environmental Services, Alternative Dispute Resolution, and property owner paves way for tree house permit process and environmental stewardship
Innovation and cooperation among King County's Department of Development and Environmental Services, a Fall City property owner, and King County's Alternative Dispute Resolution has produced two agreements which allow a property owner to apply for permits for elaborate tree houses along the Raging River that will serve as bed and breakfast facilities.
This development proposal began as a code enforcement case early in 2008 when the tree houses were reported as being constructed without permits. The property owner appealed the Code Enforcement action to the King County Hearing Examiner. The King County Council also considered a demonstration project ordinance designed to support the owner's vision.
The property owner suggested a mediated process to resolve the issue, rather than continue with the appeal and the related code enforcement actions. Stephanie Bell, Supervisor of King County Alternative Dispute Resolution, mediated more than 20 hours among the parties and reached a Voluntary Compliance Agreement which outlined a permit Review process for the tree houses. In addition, all parties signed a Mediation Agreement which asks the department to construct a more predictable process for permitting elaborate tree houses in the future.
"When this code enforcement case was first opened, there was real tension between the county's obligation to enforce strict building and land use codes and the property owner's vision to provide bed and breakfast customers with a unique exposure to the natural environment," said Deputy Department Director Joe Miles, who signed the Mediation Agreement for DDES. "This Mediation Agreement allows DDES to assist this property owner, while still meeting departmental legal obligations to protect public health and safety as outlined in development codes."
"By working together and being flexible with this very unique business, King County was able to use this enforcement action as an opportunity to improve codes," said Councilmember Kathy Lambert. "This will form an agreement that protects both property owners and the land. I can hardly wait to see this business available to citizens as another place to come and enjoy nature and have a relaxing experience. I appreciate all the work done to form this agreement through mediation."
"This is an excellent example of Alternative Dispute Resolution working," said Department Director Stephanie Warden. "Through this process, we protect the integrity of the county code, the vision of the property owner, and we also came to a solution before the code enforcement process was taken to its fullest potential. This really was a win-win for everyone involved."
"The most exciting thing about this agreement is that the property owner has an opportunity to achieve his vision," said Paul Carkeek, a Fall City consultant who represented the property owner during the dispute resolution process. "However, I think we have also forged a path for other property owners to use their property in a low-impact way which fosters environmental appreciation and sets the stage for better stewardship."
Information about the Alternative Dispute Resolution process can be found online at www.kingcounty.gov/courts/adr/benefits.aspx. For additional information about the proposed tree houses, please contact Paula Adams, DDES Public Information and Records Officer, at 206-296-6682.