A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against Clallam County’s community development director over a massive bed and breakfast proposed for Sequim Bay.
U.S. District Court Judge David Christel on March 17 granted the county’s motion for summary judgment and closed Judy Lee’s case against Community Development Director Mary Ellen Winborn.
Winborn said she was “thrilled” with the ruling in U.S. District Court Western District of Washington at Tacoma.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Winborn said March 20.
“I knew that we were doing the right thing all along, but it’s just taken a long time for us to get there. That’s been the hardest part, having to wait so long.”
Lee filed the lawsuit in December 2017 alleging that Winborn had worked to thwart her plans to build a 32,000-square-foot, four-story structure she called a bed and breakfast that featured five bedrooms and 27 bathrooms off East Sequim Bay Road.
The California developer purchased 5 acres at 695 E. Sequim Bay Road in 2016 to “make her home into an attractive bed and breakfast to allow others to enjoy the area,” according to the lawsuit.
Winborn determined that the building was actually a hotel and could not be built in the rural zone.
“When we first learned about it, it was obvious that it was not your quaint bed and breakfast that most people have,” Winborn said in a telephone interview.
“And because it was such a large structure, that meant that it could house quite a few people, and it didn’t have the safety criteria built into the proposal.”
Clallam County filed a motion for summary judgment last October, asking the court to dismiss the case.
Lee has 30 days to appeal the summary judgment to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
“The court concludes the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to Lee, shows no genuine issues of material fact exist in this case as to Lee’s claims that defendants violated her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights,” Christel said in his ruling.
“There are also no genuine issues of material fact remaining as to Lee’s state law claims of negligence, negligent misrepresentation and tortuous interference with business expectancy.”
Lee withdrew claims of defamation and outrage and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Winborn noted that Christel began and ended his 35-page summary judgment with the words “this case is closed.”
“I appreciate that a lot,” Winborn said.
Meanwhile, Lee’s third revised land use application is being considered by Clair Co. of Corvallis, Ore., which the county hired in October 2018 as third-party for the plan review.
“It was taken out of my hands,” Winborn said.
Clair Co. determined that revised plans Lee submitted in November 2018 were “incomplete and not suitable for review,” according to the summary judgment.
“The land use application is still waiting for Judy Lee to submit revised plans,” county Chief Civil Deputy Prosecuting Attorney David Alvarez said in an email to county commissioners.
Clallam County’s $30,000 contract with Clair Co. ends June 11.
In 2016, Clallam County Building Official Annette Warren determined that Lee’s building permit application was subject to the uniform building code, which has more stringent design standards than the uniform residential code.
Lee had argued that the structure was a residence.
“It was designated to be a boarding house, which is very much from a safety standpoint the same as a hotel, and hotels were prohibited in that zone,” Winborn said.
“Each step along the way, we just had to go through a really lengthy process of appeals and determinations and appeals and determinations and appeals and determinations and appeals. I say it that many times because that’s how many times we had to go through the whole appeal-decision process.”
Winborn credited Warren for researching the application and “making sure that she made the right call, and she did.”
“She really deserves a tremendous amount of credit here,” Winborn said.
Seattle attorney Mark Johnsen represented the county in the lawsuit.
Winborn credited a Washington Counties Risk Pool attorney for seeking the summary judgment.
“She thought that we had a really good case and it should go to court,” Winborn said. “It looks like the judge thought we had a really good case, too.”