Pierce County's hearing examiner has rejected a request for reconsideration of his revocation of a complex conditional-use permit for a proposed resort near Mount Rainier.
The estimated $200 million project, Mount Rainier Resort at Park Junction, had a long-running conditional-use permit subject to 100 conditions and periodic status review hearings.
The county and hearing examiner determined the project's backers had missed development milestones set for the site.
Hearing Examiner Stephen Causseaux issued his decision denying the request for reconsideration on July 15.
That determination still might be fought in appeal by the project's developers.
The project, proposed by Park Junction LLC, sought to develop a 400-acre destination resort between Elbe and Ashford that would include a golf course, a conference center and a 270-room hotel, retail and other amenities.
The conditional-use permit was approved in 2000 but has been consistently challenged by members of the Tahoma Audobon Society, whose attorney also has taken part in the proceedings through the years.
The project's third status hearing in 2019 found that sufficient progress had not been made on the project, and milestones were set in late October 2020 to allow the project to proceed.
In December, Pierce County Planning and Public Works requested revocation of the conditional-use permit after finding the first of several milestones, the creation of two "test wetlands," was not completed by Nov. 30, 2020.
Causseaux issued an initial decision agreeing with the county to revoke the permit on May 20. The attorney representing Park Junction LLC filed a request for reconsideration May 28, citing 15 alleged errors in findings of the decision and also citing a Pierce County ordinance intended to help projects facing COVID development delays.
Lynn in a June 10 letter to Causseaux argued Park Junction's partners were not aware of the ordinance at the time of the revocation hearing earlier this year.
In the decision, Causseaux noted, "Not only did the applicant not file for (a COVID) extension, it assured everyone that the project was 'under construction' in October and never advised that it could not complete the project by November 30, 2020. The applicant never expressed the need for an extension."
Causseaux also noted that while the developers argued the delays had not harmed people in the area, they did affect surrounding schools and businesses.
"Delays may have impacted the Eatonville School District that must decide whether to close Columbia Crest Elementary due to lack of enrollment or to leave it open in anticipation of resort development. Finally, neighbors have waited many years to make plans for their parcels depending on resort development. Delays have impacted the entire Upper Nisqually area."
The idea for the resort took shape in the early 1990s when Gayle and Cora Adams of Elbe partnered with Sylvia Cleaver Shepherd of Portland, Oregon. Shepherd brought in Selwyn Bingham, one of her partners at BCB Group, a development firm in Portland.
Bingham died in 2013; Cora Adams died in 2018. The project has been overseen by Gayle, his son Rick, and Shepherd as Park Junction LLC.
Shepherd, in response to questions about the decision not to reconsider revocation, told The News Tribune via email Wednesday, "We were hoping for a more positive response."
When asked what could have been done differently to see the project to completion, she responded: "Have a more reasonable and timely response from the county regarding wetlands."
Park Junction LLC also filed a land-use petition with Pierce County Superior Court in November challenging the wetland mitigation milestone specifics and timeline, seeking to remove or amend the item, arguing there was not enough time to complete.
The LUPA appeal was stayed until after the administrative revocation hearing, according to a Dec. 16 court order. In the filing, legal representatives for Park Junction and Pierce County noted, "The outcome of the administrative proceeding may resolve or moot the issues raised in Petitioner's LUPA appeal."
That appeal is still on the court docket for August.
"We will be talking in the next few days ,and the owners will make a decision about the next steps but an appeal is likely," Lynn told The News Tribune via email on Tuesday.
When asked if they would appeal, Shepherd told The News Tribune: "We need time to digest the decision."
Tahoma Audobon Society, in response to the decision, said in a statement issued this week: "We think that the Hearing Examiner's latest decision will make the case for revocation stronger and make it more difficult for Park Junction Partners to appeal successfully to Superior Court."