Rick Eichstaedt, a local attorney who has brought land use cases on behalf of neighborhood groups in and around Spokane County, will serve on a state board that hears appeals of zoning decisions made by local governments.
Gov. Jay Inslee appointed Eichstaedt to a six-year term on the Growth Management Hearings Board effective Tuesday. The seven-member panel is responsible for hearing appeals of decisions about what kind of development can occur in a particular area, guided by the Growth Management Act, a state law intended to prevent urban sprawl that has become a point of contention at times between local government officials, developers and surrounding residents.
“I hope to bring the perspective of someone who has litigated these issues for 15 years, who understands the perspective of neighbors and citizens who aren’t always heard by their local government,” said Eichstaedt, who is the former executive director of the now-defunct Center for Justice and former head of the Environmental Law Clinic at Gonzaga University’s School of Law. “Most importantly, I want to bring a fair perspective that focuses on the law.”
Eichstaedt has previously represented neighborhood groups in legal challenges against Spokane County regarding land use decisions, including the Neighborhood Alliance and the Five Mile Neighborhood Association. The county and parties agreed to a global settlement of those cases in June 2016, which prevents expansion of area where urban growth is allowed in the country through 2025 unless certain conditions are met.
State law requires that two of each members of the board must live in Eastern Washington, two in Western Washington and two in the Central Puget Sound region. Board members received annual salaries of between $113,000 and $117,500 in 2019, according to the state’s Office of Financial Management. Board members in the past have included members who went on to later seek elected office, including current state Senate Democratic candidate John Roskelley.
Eichstaedt said he intended to serve his full six-year term, but did not rule out a potential political run in the future. That includes to the Spokane County Commission, which is scheduled to expand by state law in 2022.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of people looking at how they draw the lines of the county commissioner district, and angling for those positions,” Eichstaedt said. “It will be good to get some more experience on local land use issues, which is a giant part of what county commissioners do.”
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