Seattle-based Urban Self Storage Inc., which operates 51 locations in Washington, has filed a lawsuit against the city of Bainbridge Island, Wash., over the city’s six-month moratorium on self-storage development, which was enacted in November. The suit, filed on Dec. 16 in Kitsap County Superior Court by attorney Duana T. Kolouskova, claims the ban was unlawfully adopted, curtailed Urban’s vested application and caused the company financial damage, according to the source. The official filer is listed as affiliate Urban Bainbridge.
The city council enacted the ban on Nov. 26 to give officials time to consider regulations on self-storage and make long-term decisions regarding development within its business/industrial and neighborhood-center zoning districts. The following day, officials notified Urban that the pre-application for its project on Day Road wasn’t vested under previous guidelines. “The city’s refusal to now accept and process further application materials from [Urban Bainbridge] on the theory that its application was incomplete and not vested was arbitrary and capricious, illegal, in excess of the city’s authority, and intended [solely] to prevent [Urban Bainbridge] from completing its vested application prior to the effective date of the city’s new moratorium ordinance,” the lawsuit states.
The filing also claims the city hasn’t provided sufficient reason for the ban. “There is no emergency justifying the moratorium. The city has known about [Urban Bainbridge’s] self-storage project for over 3.5 years and has repeatedly assured [the company] the project was vested,” reads the suit.
Urban submitted its first pre-application in April 2016. The suit indicates that the city passed another moratorium in January 2018 on developments targeted for business-industrial zones but had vested Urban’s pre-application at that time, making it exempt.
Urban then submitted another pre-application package in July 2018 but was told in February 2019 that changes made to the city’s land-use process required the company to hold additional meetings with officials, including the design-review board. Its request for a waiver was denied, the source reported.
In November, the company was again told it needed to go back in front of the design-review board because new design standards/guidelines had been adopted. Urban was also told the project wasn’t vested under previous regulations because it hadn’t submitted a land-use application. The city council voted to adopt the moratorium the next day, according to the source.
The lawsuit cites a Washington Supreme Court case from 1994, Friends of the Law vs. King County, which established that local governments “may not cause the vesting of the [developer’s] application to be contingent on future events or decisions, nor make the application process so odious that completion is nearly impossible.”
Urban contends city officials intentionally acted to delay its application. “The city’s rules, written and unwritten, as a necessary component of a complete development permit application, are vague and ambiguous, and nearly impossible to complete except by continuously providing information and attending more meetings, in hopes that more information and meetings might not be requested,” the lawsuit states.
Kelly Tayara, a senior planner for the city, reportedly confirmed to Urban that its project was the only self-storage application in the Bainbridge development pipeline when the council adopted the self-storage ban.
As part of its scheduled meeting this week, the city council will hold a closed-door executive session to discuss “matters relating to litigation or potential litigation,” according to the source. The council has also scheduled a public hearing on the moratorium for Jan. 14.
Founded in 1987, Urban operates 66 facilities in Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington.
Bainbridge Island Review, Bainbridge Island Faces Lawsuit Over Latest Development Moratorium