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Supreme Court sides with landowners on Mason Co. tax

Post by Brad Shannon / The Olympian on Feb. 16, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
February 16, 2012 1:44 pm

In a unanimous decision, the Washington state Supreme Court today found four Mason County property owners were improperly taxed $5 per parcel by a local conservation district and are entitled to refunds. The ruling reversed a Court of Appeals decision but upheld an earlier Superior Court ruling that had sided with the property owners against the Mason County and the Mason Conservation District.

At issue was the levying of a fee in a conservation district on non-forest lands. Property owners James R. Cary, Mary Alice Cary, John E. Diehl and William D. Fox Sr. brought the claim.

Gerry Alexander, the retired former justice, served as a judge pro tem and wrote the majority opinion. Ironically, the Bellevue-based lawyer representing the land owners was Richard Stephens, a partner in a law firm with Alexander’s 2006 Supreme Court election challenger, John Groen.

The full decision is here.

The Freedom Foundation, a libertarian Olympia think tank that has fought land-use decisions in Thurston County, called the ruling a victory and quoted Stephens in this statement:

“This unanimous decision represents a significant victory for property owners against creative government financing schemes that fail to comply with statutory requirements,” Richard Stephens said. “Fortunately, the Freedom Foundation provided briefing and argument that encouraged the Court to reach the favorable ruling in this case.”

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