Laurelhurst Community Club
Serving 2800 Households in Seattle’s Laurelhurst Neighborhood

Update and Background about the Battelle Litigation and the 1991 Settlement Agreement May 22, 1997

Current Status: Our diligent efforts to protect the neighborhood and enforce the 1991 Settlement Agreement the Laurelhurst Community Club entered into with the Battelle Memorial Institute have paid off! This means that Battelle will now honor its agreement not to sell its Laurelhurst property to the Seattle Community College District--something that would have violated the Settlement Agreement and opened the doors to added traffic and changes in the character of our neighborhood.

It means that we will not have to go to trial on June 9, 1997, an expensive endeavor for our community and also for the general taxpayers who pay the bills for the Community College. Our long fought lawsuit against Battelle and the Seattle Community College District (SCCD) will come to a conclusion with the filing of a motion for a dismissal and other court papers in the next few days.

Specifically, Battelle has agreed to the following:

Although SCCD would not specifically agree to these terms, it did agree to a dismissal of the lawsuit. Both Battelle and SCCD agreed to dismissal of the lawsuit with each party bearing its own costs and attorneys fees.

When the lawsuit was filed on June 8, 1995, SCCD had an option to purchase the Battelle property and a right of first refusal. At that time, SCCD was active in the legislature and the private sector in an effort to raise funds to purchase the property. Due in large part to the efforts of the Laurelhurst community, SCCD has not been successful in raising the funds to purchase the property or in securing the necessary state approval for the purchase. For these reasons, SCCD lacks the ability to act on the right of first refusal. Its option to purchase the property expired in February of this year. All of this means that the lawsuit should no longer be necessary.

Thank you! Our success in the lawsuit would not have been possible without the assistance and support of the following:

Background: During the 1980s, problems arose for the surrounding community with operation of the Battelle campus in the Laurelhurst Community. These ranged from spillover parking, expansion of Battelle offices into neighboring residential facilities, and attendant traffic impacts. It was then that the community learned that Battelle planned a substantial expansion on the site.

At the same time, the community was already addressing the impacts of massive expansions by Children's Hospital and facing development pressures from the University of Washington, located to the west. The community attempted to negotiate an agreement with Battelle on how it would use the property, but Battelle declined to do so. Instead, it applied to the City of Seattle for approvals necessary for its plans and the staff of the Seattle Department of Construction & Land Use granted Battelle what it requested.

Battelle refused to talk, even after the community pointed out that Battelle's operation of its "Institute for Advanced Study" was not permitted under the Seattle Land Use Code.

The community was forced to take its concerns to the Seattle Hearing Examiner when DCLU refused to acknowledge their validity. After a week-long hearing involving review of substantial evidence, the Examiner upheld the community's position and determined that Battelle's institute for advanced study was not a permitted use in a single-family zone. Battelle subsequently challenged this ruling in King County Superior Court, but had little prospect of success.

At that point, Battelle agreed to sit down with the Community Club and its neighbors and negotiate. The result was a binding Settlement Agreement and Covenants Running With the Land.

The 1991 Settlement Agreement: The Settlement Agreement gave Battelle two key items. One was an agreement by the Community Club to support an amendment to the Land Use Code allowing the institute as a permitted use in a single- family zone. The amendment was narrowly drafted so that it only affected Battelle (the wording refers to existing institutes of advanced study: Battelle was the only one). This amendment, which was duly adopted with support from the Community Club can now be found in SMC 23.44.022A. The second item given by the Community was agreement to specific increments of expansion by Battelle on the site.

In return for these two items, Battelle agreed to a number of protections for the Community. One involved minimum setbacks and buffers around the site. Another critical provision concerned changes in use of the property, or transfers in control of the property to major institutions. Key protective language, Section 1.1 of the Agreement, reads as follows:

This Agreement shall not restrict a subsequent purchaser or contingent purchaser from petitioning the City for a future change in zoning designation of the Property, but absent any such change in zoning use of the property shall in all cases be for single-family uses under the City's Land Use Code or as an institute for advanced study under the terms of this Agreement. Notwithstanding any of the foregoing, BMI shall not lease, sell or place the Property in the control of a designated Major Institution under the City of Seattle Land Use Code. [Emphasis added]

SCCD Involvement: The proposal to sell, lease, or otherwise give control of the campus to SCCD would have violated these provisions in at least two respects.

First, SCCD has stated at times since the lawsuit was filed that, among other things, it will use the Battelle facility for administrative offices for the Seattle Community Colleges. Administrative offices are not single-family uses, and as such are prohibited under the Agreement.

Second, although SCCD was reportedly using various rationales and stratagems, it is apparent that the intent of its transaction with Battelle was to place the campus, whether by title, lease, or some other form of "control" in the hands of the Seattle Community Colleges, which are major institutions under the City of Seattle Land Use Code.

Status of Proposed Use of Property by SCCD Under Seattle Land Use Code: A key starting point for analysis of SCCD's potential use of the Battelle site is SMC 23.44.022A, "Institutions." The initial portion of this subsection describes the types of facilities which "may be permitted as conditional uses in single-family zones." One of such uses is "Existing institutes for advanced studies," added to the Code with support from the Community Club as part of the Settlement Agreement with Battelle. The second part of subsection A includes the following flat prohibition:

The following institutions are prohibited in single-family zones: ...Colleges and universities...

For SCCD to use the site for anything-- administrative offices or otherwise--a change in the Land Use Code would be necessary to allow establishment of a college facility in a single-family zone.

State Board of Community and Technical Colleges: In October, 1996 Laurelhurst trustees developed recommendations for the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges to govern option agreements for educational institutions. Laurelhurst trustees and our lobbyist participated in a State Board meeting to discuss the issue. We provided the history of our difficulties with SCCD and submitted comprehensive recommendations. In response to Laurelhurst concerns, the State Board adopted a policy which, among other things, requires educational institutions to secure State Board approval prior to entering into an option agreement--something SCCD had failed to do in entering into its option agreement with Battelle. The policy protects the Laurelhurst community and ensures accountability to the taxpayers.

The Future: Battelle is currently pursuing a strategy for sale of the Laurelhurst campus and will be accepting bids and issuing Requests for Proposals in the near future. The Community Club's Battelle Committee has met with many of the prospective purchasers to review the various proposals.

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