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Mercer Island's Tent City case is heard by Court of Appeals

A year after a lawsuit brought by Islanders against the city regarding Tent City 4 was dismissed by a King County Superior Court judge, the appellants presented their argument once again in a higher court.

On Thursday, The Washington State Court of Appeals heard from both sides regarding the legality of how the city granted the permit that allowed Tent City 4 to camp at the Mercer Island Methodist Church in 2008.

The plaintiffs, a group of neighbors calling themselves Citizens for a Fair Process, are now the appellants in this case. They claim that their constitutional due process rights were violated by the city when it “illegally” granted SHARE/WHEEL, the organization behind Tent City 4, and the United Methodist Church a temporary use agreement for the encampment without notifying the public in advance. The suit also contends that the city knew well in advance that an encampment might come to Mercer Island and should have amended the city land use plans in order to accommodate and regulate such a use.

On April 24, 2009, the case was dismissed by King County Superior Court Judge Michael J. Fox, after he determined that there was ample notice (the City Council meeting in which the temporary use agreement was to be discussed was published on the city’s Web site and in the Reporter) and that no federal rights were violated. Citizens for Fair Process appealed this judgment.

The courtroom in downtown Seattle last week was packed. Ten men identifying themselves as homeless and as Tent City residents were also in attendance.

Bruce Thomas, a camp advisor for Tent City 4 on the Island, said that the city had informed citizens about the camp.

“It is very clear that the city made its case,” Thomas said. “They [the neighbors] had their opportunity to comment.”

After the hearing, the Rev. Leslie Ann Knight of the United Methodist Church, who hosted the camp, said she was hopeful about the final outcome but knew of the seriousness of the process.

“I don’t take this lightly,” she said of the appeal.

But asked if she would have the camp at her church all over again, she said “yes, absolutely.”

Islander Marty Gale said that the suit is not about targeting Tent City. “The city did not do its due process; basically, what it should have done to inform citizens,” she said. “They need to let people know what is going on.”

No time estimate was available on when the court would make its decision.

Community Events, April 2014

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