Patrick Robinson
This property at the corner of 55th SW and SW Manning Street is the subject of a lawsuit brought by the Benchview Neighborhood Association seeking to have the City of Seattle's Lot Boundary Adjustment, made in January reversed to prevent the development of three houses on the land.

UPDATE: Judge hears Benchview property case; Rules against developers

Neighborhood said lot boundary adjustments negatively impact neighborhood

UPDATE July 26

The Benchview Neighborhood Association has won a major battle in their quest to limit the adjustment of property lines allowing the development of three homes on land that previously only had one. David Allen, the Blockwatch Captain who has served as the group's spokesperson said,
"We are thrilled to report that Judge Spearman made a key ruling in favor of the Benchview neighborhood. By reversing the City’s erroneous approval of part of the lot boundary adjustment (LBA), the rest of the LBA falls apart and is nullified.

We trust the City will comply with the judge’s decision. The developer can submit a fresh LBA application. But because of the house under construction on the property, City law says he can now only claim two total lots, not three.

Two houses on these two lots has always been the fair and reasonable solution. Now it's the law.

The neighborhood's statement, the court’s decision document and other resources are on the Benchview blog. http://benchviewblog.wordpress.com/

Thank you to our wonderful Benchview neighbors. It was only through tremendous teamwork and perseverance that we could do this."

Original post July 20
By Simone Alicea

About 15 residents of the Benchview neighborhood in the Admiral district gathered in a King County Superior courtroom Friday to hear arguments about whether or not the lot boundary adjustments of the corner property on 55th Avenue SW and SW Manning Street should hold.

On one side is the Benchview Neighborhood Association, represented by Cynthia Kennedy, who is concerned that developers’ plans for the reconstructed lot boundaries will obstruct views and sunlight and lower property values in the area.

On the other side is the City of Seattle, represented by Patrick Downs, who approved the adjustments in January, and the developers, represented by Melody McCutcheon, primarily Dan Duffus of Blueprint Services, JMS Homes and Ron Day of All Day Constructors and a resident of Benchview.

The property in question was originally organized as two lots home to one house and one garage. The adjustments turn those two lots into three lots with plans for residences on each lot. There is also concern that these new developments could be as tall as three stories, although that was not confirmed by the developers at this hearing.

After two hours, Judge Marianne Spearman noted the both the complexity and impact of the case and said she would have a decision out as soon as possible. When the decision comes out, either side may appeal, though neither party has indicated a sure course of action.

In addition to Benchview neighbors, Ron Day was also at the hearing. Day did not have a comment for the Herald at this time.

Benchview Neighborhood Association representative Dave Allen said he felt pretty good about the hearing afterwards and that he was glad that the judge would carefully review the situation.

“The fact that it’s so complicated underscores the whole problem,” Allen said. “There are the rules that everyone knows and follows, but this shows that the developer has special rights that nobody else in the neighborhood knows about.”

Although the case is fraught with many complicated details, Friday’s hearing comprised two major issues.

First was the orientation of the lots. The association argued that the property was built in 1952 with a very clear orientation, putting the front yard facing 55th Avenue--Manning Street had not yet been developed--and the backyard directly behind it, where one of the new lots has been drawn.

The City and developers said that the building codes do not explicitly define orientation, which means the house’s back yard is not required to be a back yard so it can be treated as a separate lot and developed accordingly.

The second issue was whether or not the other new lot qualifies for what is called the 75-80 exception. Essentially, this rule allows lot adjustments that are smaller than minimum if the proposed adjustment is a certain percentage of both the minimum lot size and the average lot size in the area.

The debate here centered around how the average lot size was calculated in determining whether one of the lots fit into this exception. Average lot size is based on block, and the parties disagreed over which block, Manning Street or 55th Avenue, should be the basis of the calculation.

The property originally became available for redevelopment when its elderly owner died last year. Construction on the lot began in 2013.

No decision was made today but more action is expected within two weeks.

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