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Washington Supreme Court gives JZ Knight a victory in her challenge of Yelm development

Post by Peter Callaghan / The News Tribune on Dec. 15, 2011 at 8:31 am |
December 15, 2011 9:23 am

The case involved proposed subdivisions in Yelm next door to JZ Knight’s 80-acres estate. Knight, who holds what are known in state law as senior water rights, argued the city of Yelm could invade her rights in order to supply water to the new houses.

The court, in a 7-2 vote, agreed with her and against the city.

The case is big in property rights and water rights circles. But the interest grows beyond those areas because of the plaintiff. In his story on the case in May, The News Tribune’s Sean Robinson described her like this: “Knight is a wealthy New Age guru, spiritual adviser to stars, channeler (she claims) of a 35,000-year-old entity, world-famous founder of the Ramtha School of Enlightenment. She wields mystic power, some followers say.”

JZ Knight (Steve Bloom photo, 2009)

The decision ends, for now, a four-year legal battle over a proposal to build 568 houses – a 20 percent growth in Yelm’s housing stock.

Here is Justice Charlie Wiggins’ summary of the 7-2 decision that tops the majority opinion released this morning.

“In 2007, five developers filed applications with the city of Yelm (City) for preliminary plat approval of proposed subdivisions. The only developer still party to this action, TTPH 3-8 LLC (Tahoma Terra), sought approval to develop 32 acres into residential lots.

“After a hearing examiner granted Tahoma Terra preliminary plat approval, JZ Knight, a nearby property owner and senior water rights holder, appealed to the Yelm City Council (City Council), arguing the hearing examiner’s conditional approval of the plats erroneously allowed the developers and the City to delay showing adequate water provisions for the subdivision until the building permit stage. The City Council affirmed the preliminary plat approvals, and Knight filed an action in Thurston County Superior Court under the Land Use Petition Act (LUPA), chapter 36.70C RCW. This court must decide whether Knight had standing to bring the LUPA action.

“We hold that Knight established that the land use decision is likely to prejudice her water rights and satisfies the statutory standing requirement. We reverse the Court of Appeals.”

Here is Sean Robinson’s story on the case.

And here is Justice James Johnson’s dissenting opinion.

Here’s the entire decision released this morning ….

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