When a quasi-judcial application is received by the Community & Economic Development Department, the first step is to check that the application is complete and all required information has been submitted. This must take place within 28 days of the receipt of an application.
After the application is complete, a Notice of Application will be published in the Olympian, posted on the City’s website, posted on the project site, and mailed to property owners within 300 feet of the project.
City staff with expertise in planning, environmental protection, transportation, stormwater management, construction, parks & recreation, and fire protection review the application and technical reports associated with the project. Additional or updated information may be required through this technical review process. Comments and concerns are also solicited from stakeholders such as Intercity Transit, North Thurston Public Schools, Lacey Fire District 3, and local tribes of the Salish peoples. Public comment is accepted at all times up to the close of the public hearing.
The result of this review is a staff analysis of the proposal as it relates to consistency with the City’s development regulations and comprehensive plan. This analysis, along with the entire record, is made available to the Hearings Examiner and public at the same time the hearing date is fixed and notice of the hearing is posted, published, and mailed.
The Public’s Role in Quasi-judicial Processes
Anyone interested in the outcome of project approval process has a right to be heard. Members of the public may present oral and/or provide written testimony for or against a specific proposal at the public hearing held for that proposal. Public testimony ensures that a complete record is available for a decision.
When providing testimony to the Hearings Examiner at the public hearing, it is very important to present facts based on established rules and laws because facts are the foundation for issuing a decision.
The Hearings Examiner’s decision must meet the legal criteria, which comes from applying city’s existing ordinances and state statutes. If the legal criteria are satisfied, the decision must be to approve, even if popular opinion is contrary. If the legal criteria are not satisfied, the decision must be not to approve.
With the Appearance of Fairness Doctrine, state law prohibits decision-making body acting in a quasi-judicial role from ex parte contact. Decision-making body members, like Councilmembers, that have engaged in ex-parte communication are required to:
- Place the substance of any oral or written communication concerning the decision on the record; and
- Allow involved parties to rebut the substance of the communication.
The City Council’s Role in Quasi-Judicial Processes
For quasi-judicial matters, like Conditional Use Permits, the Hearings Examiner creates the record and makes a recommendation to the City Council based on that record. As noted earlier with due process, this recommendation is made in accordance with established City codes. When a project is submitted to the City, the codes in effect at that time are what is applied to that project.
Notably, the Hearings Examiner does not make a recommendation or decision at the time of the public hearing. The Hearings Examiner’s recommendation or decision will be made in the form of a written report, which will include Findings of Fact, and Conclusions of Law that will be drawn from those findings. The report will normally be issued within 10 business days after the close of a public or an appeal hearing; and distributed to the parties of record, or the parties to the appeal.
The Council, acting in its quasi-judicial role, reviews the record and the Hearings Examiner’s recommendation and may approve, modify, or reverse the recommendation of the Hearings Examiner. The Council cannot take additional public comment because it is a closed record.
If the Council modifies or reverses the recommendation, the Council must adopt findings of fact and conclusions of law which support the decision. Adopted findings of fact and conclusions of law must be based on the record created by the Hearings Examiner and must be articulated by the Council.