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Land Use

Can I Cut my Neighbor’s Trees?

Trees are beautiful and provide many benefits. Who doesn’t like trees? But trees are also a common subject of disputes between neighbors. Complaints can range from trees blocking views or sunshine, trees being too tall and in danger of falling, or trees growing over property lines.

When someone doesn’t like a neighbor’s tree, the first question they have is can they cut it down.

The general answer is obvious. No, you cannot go onto your neighbor’s property and cut their trees. But there are some… Continue reading

Legal Rainwater Collection in Whatcom County and Washington State

A rain catchment system harvests the water that runs off a property during rain and stores it for later use. Rain catchments are an increasingly popular choice in northwest Washington. This region has seen increasingly wet winters but increasingly dry summers, making storage of winter rainwater for use during the summer seem wise. Rain barrels offer an attractive and cheap way to water outdoor plants during the summer months. More elaborate rain catchment systems for indoor use are also becoming popular; the recent Hirst decision… Continue reading

Considerations for Accessory Dwelling Units in Whatcom County

Accessory dwelling units (or ADUs for short) are currently a topic of much discussion and many new laws in Whatcom County. An ADU is an attached or detached dwelling unit sharing a property with a single-family home. Examples of ADUs include mother-in-law suites, backyard cottages, garden suites, granny flats, garage apartments, and laneway houses. ADUs provide homeowners extra income, give renters more rental options, and help alleviate some pressure on cities to sprawl. They are also cause for concern among those who are wary of… Continue reading

Vesting Revisited

The Washington Supreme Court recently issued a new decision on vesting of development rights in, Snohomish County v. Pollution Control Hearings Board, et al., case no. 92805-3.  Vesting development rights generally means that the applicant has the right to have its proposal considered under the land use regulations in effect at the time a complete building permit application or preliminary plat application is filed even though land use regulations may change by the time the applicant receives approval. 

The Court found that mandatory… Continue reading

But, that’s not Fair!

Over the years, I’ve heard people protest that decision makers are improperly persuaded into making a land use decision. Persuading decision makers to make a specific land use decision can be both legal and proper for certain types of decisions.  In fact, decision makers consider public input when deciding land use issues.  One important legal doctrine in the land use arena, which helps to prevent improper bias or prejudice by a decision maker, is the Appearance of Fairness doctrine. 

The Appearance of… Continue reading

3 Tips to Avoid Boundary Line Disputes

One of the more common types of lawsuits involving real property is over boundary lines. Typical boundary line issues include disputes about where exactly the boundary line is between two pieces of property and whether one owner is encroaching onto a neighbor’s property in some way. 

Boundary line disputes can come up with any type of property: residential, commercial, development, agricultural, or forestry. But no matter what kind of property, when buying property there are a few simple things a person can do to… Continue reading

SEPA, It’s Not a Ghost.

Most people who deal with SEPA, or the State Environmental Policy Act (RCW 43.21C) have heard that SEPA is only about the process and not relevant. While there is great focus upon compliance with the SEPA process, the process helps insure that the purposes and policy of the Act are met.  SEPA contains laudable stated purposes and policies.  The purposes of SEPA, are set forth by Washington’s Legislature as follows:

The purposes of this chapter are: (1) To declare a state policy which… Continue reading

3 Ways to Avoid Getting Sued for Timber Trespass

Timber trespass occurs when a person intentionally cuts down or otherwise injures trees on another person’s property. Timber trespass is serious in Washington. We love our trees here.

As a result, harsh penalties are imposed on people committing timber trespass. The court is required to award treble damages to the owner of the trees, unless the trespass was casual or involuntary. This harsh remedy of triple damages makes timber trespass lawsuits very expensive for people alleged to have cut down another person’s trees.

  1. Survey Property… Continue reading

No Strict Liability for Logging: Court Issues Favorable Ruling for Timber Industry

The Washington Court of Appeals recently held that timber companies cannot be held strictly liable for their timber harvest activities. Carmichael Clark represented one of its long-time timber company clients in earlier stages of the case.

This case arose out of a massive storm that occurred in early January 2009. Significant flooding and landslides occurred, particularly in Lewis County in southwest Washington. Some of those landslides damaged property in the Glenoma area of Lewis County.

Several Glenoma area property owners brought suit against various timber… Continue reading

Spring is in the Air

With the arrival of spring, I start to head outdoors a bit more and find myself (along with many folks in Whatcom County) recreating in a public park or trail.  As you risk life and limb to chase down your dog that has wondered off trail, be careful as if you do injure yourself you may find yourself without legal recourse from the landowner.  Washington provides immunity from liability for unintentional injuries to landowners, public or private, who allow members of the public… Continue reading