Islander loses his appeal to reverse K2 rezone

Businessman Tom Bangasser lost round one in his effort to force King County to reverse its decision to rezone the K2 site when a quasi-judicial panel ruled he lacked the legal grounds to challenge the county’s move.

In a decision issued March 13 and a subsequent denial of his request for a reconsideration issued last week, the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board ruled that because Bangasser did not protest the proposed rezone while it was pending before the county council, he does not have standing to contest it after the fact.

Under the state’s Growth Management Act, a citizen has legal grounds to challenge a rezone decision only if the person “participated orally or in writing” in the matter, the board said in its seven-page ruling. Bangasser did neither, the board said.

The three-member panel reiterated its stance in its three-page ruling last week.

“The board acknowledges (Bangasser) is active in the community and actively participates in various organizations,” the board said in last week’s ruling. “However, (Bangasser) misses the point of the need to show via evidence that he, himself, as an individual and not a member of the (Vashon-Maury Island Community Council), actually participated by communicating to the county his support or opposition for the K2 zoning.”

Because there’s no record of Bangasser taking a stand on the issue, he can’t now appeal it, the board said.

Bangasser, however, said he’s not deterred by the board’s ruling and plans to appeal the decision in King County Superior Court. He said he also plans to name several other defendants in the legal challenge, including the community council, Water District 19, the King County Library System and several other entities — all of which, he said, should have been at the table when the rezone was under consideration.

“I’m putting all the pieces together for going to Superior Court. This is too big of a thing,” he said.

The dispute highlights an issue that has been troubling several Islanders for months, ever since the county council, as part of changes it made to its countywide comprehensive plan last September, changed the zoning at the K2 site, taking away its “industrial” label and replacing it with a “commercial business” designation.

The move was made after K2 Sports president Robert Marcovitch wrote a letter to county Councilmember Dow Constantine last July saying a new designation was essential if the 180,000-square-foot building were to be sold. An industrial designation made little sense, Marcovitch wrote, because of the lack of industry on the Island, the costs of transportation and other issues.

But many Islanders expressed upset over the little notice Islanders received about the proposed rezone, which went through a legislative process rather than the more typical administrative one.

The issue has taken on more energy in recent months, with news that the King County Library System is considering purchasing the 10,000-square-foot former machine shop that sits on a corner of the property next to the main structure and moving Vashon’s branch library to the site.

The library system would not be able to move the branch to K2 if it were still zoned industrial, Bangasser noted.

Jean Bosch, president of the community council, said she wasn’t surprised to hear that Bangasser lost his challenge before the Growth Management Hearings Board. But it’s unfortunate, she added.

“I think a lot of people on the Island would have liked to have had a chance to comment on the rezone. ... I certainly take my hat off to him. He gave it a good try,” she said.

But Art Wahl, the commercial broker who’s working to sell the property, said he’s frustrated by Bangasser’s actions.

Ultimately, Wahl contended, Bangasser won’t be successful. But his legal challenge is making investors shy away from the multi-million-dollar project and making it difficult for Islanders Dick Sontgerath and Truman O’Brien to move forward on their plans to redevelop the site, Wahl said.

Bangasser, he added, has a vested interest in making the deal unravel; as the manager of two commercial business buildings in the vicinity, Courthouse Square and the Sheffield Building, a commercial center at K2 is a threat to him, Wahl said.

“If this is zoned commercial, it’s competition to him,” he said.

“It’s just gotten so sticky,” Wahl added. “K2 has been as much of a corporate citizen as anyone can be. The one issue that has made this harder and harder and harder is Bangasser.”

But Bangasser, who is moving forward without a lawyer, contended that he’s driven by his concern over the integrity of Vashon’s town plan and the strength of its town core.

The rezone changes the designation of a piece of property the size of 12 to 15 blocks in downtown Seattle, he said.

“If you rezoned 12 to 15 blocks in downtown Seattle, people would be up in arms. It impacts sewer; it impacts water; it impacts the sustainability of the Island,” the Vashon businessman said.

Because of the way the rezone was handled, few people knew about it, he added.

“It’s a community discussion the community has not had,” Bangasser said.

O’Brien, meanwhile, said he and Sontgerath aren’t troubled by Bangasser’s actions.

“It was obvious from the beginning that he didn’t have standing,” O’Brien said. “It just slows things down, is all.”

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