Land Use and Regulatory Jurisdiction of Local Governments Over State Agencies and Other Local Governments

William H. Chapman, Land Use and Regulatory Jurisdiction of Local Governments Over State Agencies and Other Local Governments, 25 Gonz. L. Rev. 65 (1989).

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On May 4, 1989, the Supreme Court of Washington, sitting en banc, issued opinions in companion cases that reversed direction on a decade of Washington precedent regarding intergovernmental immunity. Confronted by companion cases presenting an ideal opportunity to clarify the bases for intergovernmental immunity doctrine and to distinguish cases where the doctrine applies from those where statutory intent predominates, the court instead finessed the difficult issue. Faced with an inviting challenge to delineate the proper role of zoning within an increasingly interconnected environmental law framework, the court provided no illumination. This article attempts to examine the court’s recent decisions in three contexts: intergovernmental immunity case law nationwide, Washington precedent on this issue, and existing environmental law and policy framework in Washington.

This article analyzes decisions on one question: When one government entity plans to build an unwanted facility like a landfill within the boundaries of a different local government, which government has primacy? In a typical controversy, a general or special purpose municipality providing a service, such as waste disposal or health care (hereinafter a “service agency”), attempts to expand or locate a new facility within the territorial land use jurisdiction of a general purpose municipality (hereinafter “land use authority”). Such facilities tend to arouse opposition from nearby landowners and the local land use authority, based at least in part on the proposed facility’s lack of conformance with local zoning. In these circumstances, the power of a service agency to use and develop land that is within the boundaries of a different governmental land use authority can conflict directly with the latter’s power to restrict the use of land through zoning.

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