OLYMPIA — The Washington Supreme Court this week takes on a rental issue that’s had neighbors feuding for years in the Chiwawa River Pines neighborhood near Plain.
The justices will hear arguments starting about 9 a.m. Tuesday, in the hopes of deciding whether property owners in the 367-lot planned community can rent their homes out nightly, monthly, or in six-month blocks.
Chiwawa River Pines, established in 1981 between Plain and Fish Lake, didn’t specifically address short-term rentals in its founding covenants or subsequent amendments. Nightly rentals there began to boom as Internet rental services caught on, and long-term residents of the came into conflict with nearby vacationers.
A majority of homeowners voted in 2008 to amend the covenants, adding prohibitions on rentals of six months or less. Seventeen property owners, some of whom had sought to rent their property nightly, sued the governing Chiwawa Communities Association in 2009 to overturn that amendment.
Chelan County Superior Court Judge T.W.“Chip” Small ruled in 2010 that the CCA lacked the authority to put six-month rental minimums in place, and then shortened the minimum to one month. The plaintiffs appealed, and in 2011 the state Court of Appeals rolled back Small’s changes, opening up the potential for nightly rentals once again.
In 2011, the CCA held two more votes of its 304 homeowners concerning rentals. The results were 149-58 and 180-43 to amend the covenants against short-term rentals; a majority vote required 153 owners.
Fifteen property owners — 10 of whom were plaintiffs in the original case — filed a new lawsuit against the homeowners association in June 2011, saying the vote would “have the effect of destroying” Chiwawa River Pines’ original development plan, “which allows residential rentals of any duration.” Then-Chelan County Superior Court Judge John Bridges sided with the 15 plaintiffs in a December 2011 decision.
The Chiwawa Communities Association promptly asked the Supreme Court for review. Each side in the case — the plaintiff homeowners represented by Everett-based attorney Dennis Jordan, the CCA by former Washington Supreme Court Justice Philip Talmadge — has 20 minutes to make argument when the hearing opens Tuesday.
To pay its legal costs in the fight, the Chiwawa Communities Association levied a $165 special assessment on each of its lot owners in 2011.
Jefferson Robbins: 664-7123