Citizens in Ferry County who are trying to save some trails from ATV traffic have moved their fight in to the legal realm. Here’s an update from the quiet communities coalition:
LEGAL CHALLENGE UPDATE
QUIET COMMUNITIES COALITION
In February 2008, Quiet Communities Coalition (“QCC”) filed suit against Ferry County and its Commissioners, challenging the legality of Ferry County’s off-highway vehicle Ordinance No. 2007‑22 enacted in December 2007. In the lawsuit, QCC contended that the Ordinance violates RCW Chapter 46.09, state legislation which authorized off-road vehicle recreation and use in certain locations under limited circumstances. QCC also contended that the County violated RCW Chapter 43.21, the State Environmental Policy Act, by failing to complete an Environmental Impact Statement to study and analyze the substantial adverse environmental impacts of the Ordinance.
After a few months of futile attempts to resolve their concerns about the Ordinance with the County, QCC filed a motion for declaratory judgment and permanent injunction. At the County’s request, the motion was set for oral argument on Friday, June 6, 2008, at 1:30 p.m. On the morning of June 6, 2008, just before the Court Hearing that had been scheduled months previously, the Ferry County Commissioners enacted Ordinance No. 2008‑06 to “amend,” “repeal,” and “replace” Ordinance No. 2007‑22 in an effort to correct the deficiencies QCC alleged concerning that Ordinance. That afternoon, QCC’s motion was argued before Judge Michael Price of Spokane County Superior Court.
On June 10, 2008, Judge Price issued a written decision upholding QCC’s challenge on both counts and entered an order prohibiting implementation of both Ferry County Ordinance No. 2007‑22 and Ferry County Ordinance No. 2008‑06. Subsequently, Ferry County has decided to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement to study and analyze the environmental impacts of OHV use in the County caused by the various ordinances.
In his written decision, Judge Price stated “the Court has significant concerns that Defendants and counsel engaged in behavior which was inconsistent, deceptive, and would appear on face to be a thinly veiled attempt to enact a new ordinance before the Court could rule on the underlying issues pertaining to Ferry County Ordinance 2007‑22.”
As a consequence, QCC asked the Court for an award of a portion of the attorneys’ fees and costs it has incurred in this action pursuant to CR 11 and RCW 4.84.185, contending that “the County engaged in arguments that were not grounded in fact, were not warranted by existing law, were not based on good faith arguments for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law, and were interposed for an improper purpose, including to harass, to cause unnecessary delay, and to needlessly increase the costs of litigation.” In short, the County Commissioners and their counsel needlessly delayed the Court’s decision on the merits of County Ordinance 2007‑22, including their last-minute adoption of a new OHV ordinance, forcing QCC to incur needless legal costs. Further, the County Commissioners failed to act in good faith to seek resolution of QCC’s legal challenge.
On July 25, 2008, Judge Price issued an order reserving ruling on the attorneys’ fees issue until the matter proceeds to trial or until the matter is resolved prior to trial.