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Superior court judge rules against diking district over pump assessments

Round one in the lawsuit against Island County Diking District 1 over its controversial pump project has gone to the plaintiffs.

Island County Superior Court Judge Vickie Churchill ruled March 27 that district officials must turn over all documents concerning decisions the board made in conducting the business of the district since 1986.

Churchill granted a writ of review to Citizens in Support of Useless Bay Community (CSUBC), a group of property owners upset with the district's assessments for the $430,000 pump project and the impact of the pumping on the district's wetlands.

CSUBC says district commissioners pushed through the pump without appropriate public notification or hearings, and that it changed its assessment procedure, putting the bulk of the financial burden on only a few residents.

"Guarding the individual's rights to due process is a fundamental function of courts," Churchill wrote. "It appears that the district exceeded its jurisdiction or acted illegally and there is no adequate remedy at law."

Churchill ruled that the 1986 assessment method adopted by the diking commissioners was improperly changed on short notice in 1995.

"There was no notice to the property owners, no public hearing, no chance to be heard, and no appeal process," the judge wrote. "Because there was no open hearing, the public affected did not have a chance to influence the District commissioners' decision and and not have a chance to appeal, as they did after 1986."

The judge will review the documents she receives and issue another ruling.

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