Historic committee castoff loses lawsuit
February 3, 2009 · 4:01 PM
Coupeville resident Paula Spina lost her lawsuit against Island County and the man who replaced her on the Historic Review Committee.
But Spina vowed to stay involved as the county and the town of Coupeville work together to revise and improve the way both entities deal with the design review process in Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve.
Last Wednesday morning, Island County Superior Court Judge Alan Hancock made a declaratory judgement in favor of the county and newly appointed HRC member Tom Tack.
“I basically got my butt handed to me,” Paula Spina said with a laugh, adding that she respects Hancock’s decision.
“In one respect, it’s a relief it’s over. It brings stability to the HRC. On the other hand, I hate to lose,” she added.
Spina filed a lawsuit last fall after the county commissioners bounced her from the Historic Review Committee, which is the volunteer body charged with making recommendations about the design of houses and other projects within Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. The Central Whidbey reserve is a unique place “that provides a vivid historical record where Pacific Northwest history is still clearly visible in the landscape,” according to the National Park Service.
The committee was embroiled in controversy last year after a paperwork snafu resulted in the issuance of a building permit for a 5,000-square-foot home that committee members unanimously felt was too large and out of place.
Spina held a large rally at the Crockett Barn last summer in an effort to pressure county commissioners to rescind the building permit, but to no avail. The deadline had passed for the permit to be taken back, county officials said.
Spina had originally been appointed to the committee to fill in for a member who resigned. When the term expired last summer, the commissioners chose not to reappoint her despite a unanimous vote from the committee to keep her as a member.
Spina filed suit, arguing that the county ordinance only allows them to appoint HRC members to four-year terms, meaning she would serve until August 2011.
Island County Deputy Prosecutor Dan Mitchell represented both the county and Tack. He explained that Hancock agreed that the statute of limitation for Spina to file the lawsuit had passed long ago. She only had 20 days from her appointment in December of 2007 to make the claim.
In addition, Mitchell said the judge agreed that the commissioners had properly appointed Spina to fill out the remainder of an unexpired term.
“The intent of the ordinance is to have a well-maintained, staggering of appointments to ensure a smooth transition of members leaving and joining the committee,” he said.
Yet Hancock acknowledged that the language of the ordinance was ambiguous and it was understandable that two people could disagree on the meaning.