In an opinion filed January 7, 2013, a Washington Court of Appeals reaffirmed this state’s already strong vested-rights doctrine. The court in Town of Woodway v. Snohomish County ruled that an application for an urban center development and commercial building permit vested under the zoning rules in effect at the time of the application’s filing even though the Growth Hearings Board later invalidated the zoning that allowed the development. To vest means that the applicant can proceed with a development application under the zoning regulations in effect at the time of application even if those regulations change or, in this case, are invalidated.

This case raised an interesting issue: can an application vest to rules that were not validly adopted in the first place? Or does an application vest under adopted regulations because the rules were not declared invalid until after vesting? The court chose the latter alternative, noting that under the Growth Management Act, regulations are presumed valid upon adoption. The court also relied on statutes and legislative history, finding that this authority fully supported a ruling that Growth Management Act plans and regulations are valid until the Growth Board issues an order of invalidity even if the reason for invalidity is noncompliance with the State Environmental Policy Act, rather than the Growth Management Act. Read the decision on the Washington Courts website.