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SubjectsPlanning › Hearing Examiner System
Updated 09/2013

Hearing Examiner System in Washington

Contents

Introduction

This page provides information about the hearing examiner system in Washington jurisdictions. Cities and counties in Washington State have statutory authorization to establish a hearing examiner system. Under a hearing examiner system, a city or county hires or contracts with a hearing examiner to conduct quasi-judicial hearings, usually in place of local bodies such as the planning commission, the board of adjustment, the board of county commissioners, or the city council. The basic purpose of having a hearing examiner conduct these hearings is to have a professionally-trained individual, typically an attorney, make objective quasi-judicial decisions that are supported by an adequate record and that are free from political influences. Using a hearing examiner system allows local legislative and advisory bodies that might otherwise conduct these hearings to better concentrate on policy-making. It can also potentially reduce local government liability exposure through what should be more consistent and legally-sustainable quasi-judicial decisions.

A board of county commissioners or a city council has considerable discretion in establishing how the hearing examiner system will operate. The position of hearing examiner (appointment, qualifications, termination, etc.), the type of issues the hearing examiner is authorized to consider and decide, and the effect of the hearing examiner's decisions are among the matters addressed by the local legislative body and set out in the enabling ordinance. Although counties and cities use hearing examiners primarily for hearing and deciding land use permit applications and/or administrative appeals of land use decisions, hearing examiners may also be used to conduct hearings and make recommendations or decisions on other local matters.

Legal References - Statutes and Regulations

  • RCW 35.63.130 - Authorizes use of a hearing examiner system in first and second class cities and towns for certain zoning matters
  • RCW 35A.63.110 - Authorizes hearing examiner system as replacement for board of adjustment
  • RCW 35A.63.170 - Authorizes use of a hearing examiner system in code cities for certain zoning matters
  • RCW 36.70.970 - Authorizes use of a hearing examiner system in counties for certain zoning matters
  • RCW 58.17.330 - Authorizes use of a hearing examiner system in cities and counties for hearing and issuing recommendations or decisions on preliminary plat
  • RCW 36.70B.020(3) - Defines open record hearings on project permit applications – hearing examiner may conduct
  • RCW 36.87.060(2) - Authorizes hearing examiner to conduct hearing on proposed county road vacation
  • LID/RID Hearings
    • RCW 35.43.140 - Authorizes use of a hearing examiner to conduct hearing on proposed LID formation
    • RCW 35.44.070 - Authorizes use of a hearing examiner to conduct LID assessment roll hearing
    • RCW 36.88.062 - Authorizes use of a hearing examiner to conduct hearing on proposed RID formation
    • RCW 36.88.095 - Authorizes use of a hearing examiner to conduct RID assessment roll
    • RCW 36.94.260 - Authorizes use of a hearing examiner to conduct hearings on assessments for LID within the area of a sewerage and/or water general plan
  • RCW 46.55.240 - Authorizes use of a hearing examiner to conduct hearings on abatement and removal of junk vehicles from private property
  • RCW 43.21C.075 - Authorizes use of a hearing examiner to conduct hearings on SEPA appeals
  • WAC 458-14-136 - Authorizes county boards of equalization to employ hearing examiner(s)

Ordinances

This section includes sample code provisions from Washington cities and counties.

Washington Cities

  • Battle Ground Municipal Code Ch. 2.10 - Hearing Examiner System - Applies to Land Use and Administrative Decisions, Land Division, Zoning, Environmental Protection
  • Bellevue Office of the Hearing Examiner - Applies to general policies and regulations adopted by the City Council to specific proposals or situations. Hearings are conducted about land use applications, appeals from decisions of City departments, and various enforcement issues
    • Bellevue Municipal Code Ch. 3.68 - Hearing Examiner
    • Bellevue Municipal Code Sec. 1.18.050 - Hearing before the hearing examiner (Civil Enforcement)
    • Bellevue Municipal Code Ch. 20.35 - Review and Appeal Procedures (Land Use Code)
  • Bellingham Municipal Code Ch. 2.56 - Hearing Examiner - Applies to Land Use and General Administrative  
  • Bremerton Hearing Examiner - Applies to Land Use and General Administrative 
    • Bremerton Municipal Code Ch. 2.13 - Administrative Hearing Examiner
  • Duvall Municipal Code Ch. 2.22 - Enforcement Hearing Examiner - Applies to Land Use and Other Code Enforcement
  • Lynnwood Municipal Code Ch. 2.22 - Hearing Examiner
  • Redmond Municipal Code Ch. 1.14 - Enforcement and Penalties - Applies to Land Use and other Code Compliance
  • SeaTac - Applies to Land Use and Code Enforcement Appeals
    • SeaTac Municipal Code Ch. 1.20 - Hearing Examiner System
    • SeaTac Municipal Code Sec. 15.22.060 - Hearing Examiner Development Review Process
    • SeaTac Municipal Code Sec. 15.22.065 - Appeal Process
  • Snohomish (City) (Applies to Land Use, Title 14)
    • Snohomish Municipal Code Ch. 2.33 (Adobe Acrobat Document) - Hearing Examiner
    • Snohomish Municipal Code Ch. 14.95 (Adobe Acrobat Document) - Hearing Examiner
  • Spokane Municipal Code Ch. 17G.050 - Hearing Examiner

Washington Counties

  • Clallam County Hearing Examiner Process - Applies to Land Use
    • Clallam County Code Ch. 26.04 - Hearing Examiner
  • Clark County Code Ch. 2.51 - Hearing Examiner System - Applies to Land Use
  • Spokane County Hearing Examiner - Applies to various land use applications, appeals of land use determinations made by divisions of the County Public Works Department, and certain other quasi-judicial matters
    • Spokane County Code Ch. 1.44 - Hearing Examiner Committee
    • Spokane County Code Ch. 1.46 - Hearing Examiner System

Hearing Examiner Rules

This section includes sample rules of procedure for hearing examiners in Washington jurisdictions.

Hearing Examiner Information - Sample Websites

 

Need more information?

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