News

Planning chairman cleared of conflict

Dennis Box

The Courier-Herald

Bonney Lake City Attorney Jim Dionne returned a decision clearing Planning Commission Chairman Steve Burnham of a conflict of interest charge.

The accusation that the chairman may have a conflict of interest arose during a Jan. 5 Planning Commission meeting.

The commission was hearing public comment on rezones of areas in the city that are inconsistent with the city's future land use map, a document that must be in compliance with the Growth Management Act.

One of the more controversial rezones being considered by the commission is area 41, about 10 acres near South Prairie Road East currently zoned commercial. The commission is considering rezoning the area R-2, medium-density residential.

The eight property owners of the area have strongly disagreed with the possible rezone, as has Linda Youngberg, who owns commercial land adjacent to the area.

Youngberg spoke at the meeting about her concerns if the property's zoning is changed. She also noted Burnham is a staff attorney for Investco, a company that develops land in Bonney Lake area.

She asked the chairman to forward a request to the city attorney for an investigation into a conflict of interest.

"He is in a position on the planning commission that deals with land use," Youngberg said. "I feel he can give favorable decision to Investco."

Burnham forwarded the request to the city attorney through Planning Director Bob Leedy and Mayor Bob Young.

Dionne returned his report to Young Friday.

"The city attorney has said there is no legal conflict," Young said. "Because the planning commission is advisory and not quasi-judicial there is no conflict according to the attorney."

Burnham stated he would not comment until he had seen the report. He said he had sent e-mails to the mayor and Leedy asking about the report.

When told of the report, Youngberg stated she was shocked by the findings.

"I would like to know what comprised the investigation," Youngberg said. "I feel I should have been involved in the investigation. The attorney hasn't come to me or the eight neighbors in area 41. He hasn't talked to any of us."

Commission member Quinn Dahlstrom has defended Burnham both as chairman and commission member.

"Steve has never shown any evidence of a conflict of interest," Dahlstrom said. "He has taught us all so much. I can't tell anyone how much I respect him. His integrity is beyond reproach."

The mayor noted the city attorney's decision was based on the role of the commission, which is advisory and does not carry legislative or judicial authority.

"This was a fair question that was raised," Young said. "There is a problem with the political perception of the chairman. I will discuss it with him (Burnham)."

Although the investigation appears to be settled, Youngberg said she feels there continues to be troubles.

"This does not end the problem," Youngberg said.

The conflict-of-interest issue surfaced because of the rezone proposals and when Home Depot decided against building at the area 41 site, opting instead for an Investco parcel behind Rite Aid.

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com.

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