Daily Decisions: I Don’t See Nothing Wrong with a Little Crush n’ Grind

Jeffrey Spencer owns some farmland; Ron Shear operates a processing business on Spencer’s land. Shear’s business is to take “organic vegetation such as trees, stumps, brush, leaves, grass, and organic soils” and convert that stuff into “animal bedding and fuel.” Sounds like a fine business to me.

Well, Spencer’s neighbors operate a flower farm and they don’t like the business one bit. Apparently, when trucks bring in the organic vegetation, dust kicked up by the trucks lands on the neighbors’ precious flowers. So they called the King County Department of Developmental and Environmental Services (“DDES”) and snitched on Spencer and Shear. DDES issued a “notice of violation” to Shear and Spencer, which alleged that they were operating an unauthorized materials processing facility because the facility was “engaged in crushing, grinding, pulverizing or otherwise preparing earth materials.”

Shear and Spencer (“S&S”) appealed to a Hearing Examiner, who concluded that S&S had established a valid nonconforming use prior to the enactment of the relevant zoning ordinance. DDES then appealed that decision to the Superior Court, who reversed the Hearing Examiner and sided with DDES.

In King County v. King County DDES (Division 1, April 2, 2012), the Court of Appeals reversed the Superior Court and reinstated the Hearing Examiner’s findings. Continue reading