CAPR is in the midst of the most important legal battle of its history!

An Update on the Mills Case! Most of the contributions to CAPR are to the Legal fund.  This tells us that most people think the way to protect our property is through legal battles. If you are among those who believe we need to fight the property rights battle through the court, then now is the time to step up to the plate! For decades, the environmental movement has been funding their lobbying and land use control agenda through a method of suing the government.  How can that be?  Every major environmental law today -- Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, etcetera, contains provisions for "citizen suits" that allow "citizen attorneys general" to sue violators in federal court.  At the most basic level, these fee shifting provisions provide compensation for citizens who bring litigation against the federal government to enforce the federal laws.  This concept provides for a “checks-and-balances” of the federal government by private citizens, and diminishes the worry of those citizens that they cannot afford to bring a lawsuit.  While the premise of fee shifting statutes is admirable, some national environmental groups have severely taken advantage of the system – in some cases, earning hundreds of thousands of dollars for lawsuits that enforce procedures, and don’t protect the environment.  Part of the goal of this Lawsuit is for CAPR to put the shoe on the other foot, and use this method to get an actual wrong corrected! The situation is that in 2003 the Mills family, who are CAPR members, where excited to move into a newly purchased home in Duvall, Washington. Sitting on 2 ¼ secluded acres with many 150 foot tall fir trees, the property felt like a park. All was well until December of 2006 when a terrific wind storm hit the northwest. During the storm, 24 trees came down landing on the house and garage, totaling a shed and also a Toyota 4-Runner SUV. The place looked like a war zone and the seclusion was gone with the house standing naked to its surroundings. Following the storm, the Mills asked for and received permission from the City of Duvall to begin emergency clean-up even though permission was not required for the emergency action. They then began the clean-up, unburying the house and garage and the trees lying everywhere. As part of the clean-up they consulted with tree specialists and determined that 19 hazardous trees in saturated soil that were leaning precariously would be taken down. That is when the real nightmare began! Someone with influence complained that trees were being cleared in a wetland. City inspectors demanded that work be stopped in the middle of clean-up saying that they had evidence that the property contained a wetland. The City proceeded to demand consultant studies, reports, mitigation plans and fees for the supposed damage. Additionally, they threatened fines and possible imprisonment of 90 days per each “offense”! The Mills were shocked at the thought of going to jail just for cleaning up and making their property safe to live on. The Mills made every effort to work with the City to no avail. Even though the City never showed proof that there is a wetland on the property, it seemed that Duvall did not want to resolve this issue without taking a part of the property. The Mills eventually filed suit against Duvall but when it became obvious that the City was more interested in wearing them down then resolving the issue equitably, the Mills dropped the suit. The claim of a wetland on the Mills property was never substantiated by the City and was subsequently refuted by a study conducted be SNR Company, a highly regarded environmental science consultant. You will see below why the City took this route. The Real Issue is a large part of the reason the Mills lost so many trees to the windstorm is that the property is acting as a storm retention pond for surrounding uphill developments. Inundated with water, the trees couldn’t stand in the saturated soils. With approval of the City, the storm systems of these developments were designed to shed their run-off onto the Mills property. These uphill systems became part of the City sewer system after construction. The water that is dumped on the property is then picked back up by the City system as it exits the Mills property on the low side. In effect, they had made the Mills property a part of the of the City storm sewer system!  And that is a violation of the City’s permit to handle storm waters and violates the federal Clean Water Act. CAPR Takes Action as the Mills tried to work with the City to no avail. They offered Duvall an easement across their property to transport City storm water in exchange for removing the wetland designation from the property. However, the City decided it would rather grind them up than admit to a mistake. The Legal Fund plans to show them that was the wrong choice. In June of 2012, CAPR Legal Fund filed a citizens’ suit in federal court against the City of Duvall. This case is unique for CAPR in that it offers a new way for us to help protect not only the Mills family but others in the future. Federal law allows the filing of a Citizens’ Lawsuit for violations of the Clean Water Act.  The “hammer” the City faces will be fines in the tens of millions of dollars or more, resolution of the problem for the Mills family, and recovery of legal fees.  If the City decides to settle with CAPR before a final verdict, we will be able to help the Mills family get back to whole and maybe have a few bucks left for the next challenges that we have already identified.  CAPR will gain additional clout for future actions to help property rights but maybe more importantly we will have used a powerful new tool that will now be at our disposal. Last Monday, a Federal Judge ruled in the Mills case that the City of Duvall, Washington has the right to dump stormwater on private property! He ruled (without any supporting evidence) that the City is not violating its NPDES stormwater permit by doing so. To throw salt in the wound, he claimed that CAPR didn’t look like other environmental organizations, and therefore implied that we shouldn’t have access to the citizen suit provisions to defend the Mills family from Duvall’s abuses! I don’t know about you, but this ruling makes my blood boil! Last I checked, this is the United States of America, where we are entitled to EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER THE LAW, regardless of how we “look”!! We are NOT about to lie down and go away on this case. The Mills are ready to move forward, and CAPR wants to move forward with an appeal. WE URGENTLY NEED YOUR HELP IN ORDER TO MOVE THIS CASE FORWARD! We cannot do this without YOUR support, so PLEASE DONATE TO THE LEGAL FUND TODAY! We must immediately file a “Motion for Reconsideration”, by September 30th, A WEEK FROM TODAY. Though this motion is unlikely to be taken up by the judge, it will allow us to "dot our i’s and cross our t’s" to ensure that absolutely everything we might need is in the record for an appeal. WE NEED TO RAISE $5,000 IMMEDIATELY to fund preparation and submittal of that motion. But that’s not all. We must begin preparation of the appeal of this ruling immediately, as it will be due by October 16th, a mere three weeks from today! Appeal costs are estimated to run between $10,000 and $20,000, most of which will be needed to prepare and submit the appeal. Friends, now is not the time to give up on justice for the little guys. CAPR has won on appeal before! Remember the CAPR v. Sims case, where we won on appeal, and overturned the draconian clearing and grading ordinance in King County? What if we had rolled over without appealing that case? We can do this, but WE NEED YOUR HELP TODAY to do it! Please donate to the legal fund right away! Unlike the federal government, we cannot call upon the Federal Reserve to print money out of thin air to pay our bills. We need YOUR donations TODAY, or we will not have the funds to fight and win this battle. Please donate Today! Your Help is vitally important to the ultimate success of this action!  The Legal Fund is very cautious with its actions because the expending of funds should have a very good chance of securing benefits and results. CAPR is now poised to go to trial, and costs are significant. However, the odds for this challenge are excellent. Please help the Legal Fund take this most important next step! You can donate online using the Donate buttons on this page or if donating by mail is more your style, please send your check to CAPR Legal Fund, 718 Griffin Ave., #7, Enumclaw, WA 98022. Please note on your check “Mills action”.  The Legal Fund is an IRS 501(c)(3) and your donations are tax deductible. Thank you!

September 24, 2013