County Council appoints new rural ombudsman from Utah: David Spohr awarded position on 8-1 vote, will work with residents on zoning, permitting2006-05-16
by Dean A. Radford
The King County Council has chosen someone with a deep understanding of property rights as the county's new rural ombudsman.
The council appointed David Spohr, the deputy property rights ombudsman for the state of Utah, to the new $70,983 position on an 8-1 vote Monday.
``Land-use disputes will always be contentious, but if you have the right person who is qualified, credible and knowledgeable, we can make the process less abrasive and more productive,'' Spohr said in an interview with the council.
In Utah, Spohr worked with property owners and government agencies to resolve ``takings,'' zoning, access and related land-use disputes. He also was a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., and Seattle.
He was lead federal attorney in resolving numerous land-use cases, including a $32.2 million settlement and a 3,000-member class-action lawsuit.
He also has published articles on land-use and takings cases in national publications.
In the county, he'll work with such local citizen groups as the Citizens Alliance for Property Rights and unincorporated areas councils, all of which are focal points for rural land-use issues.
The idea is that he'll help rural residents resolve any problems they have with permitting or zoning issues. He'll also have the power to investigate complaints, including the ability to issue a subpoena, and report back to the council.
``He has teeth,'' said Republican councilman Reagan Dunn of Bellevue, who first proposed the idea of a rural ombudsman. Dunn's District 9 includes both suburban and rural areas of east and southeast King County.
Dunn was later joined by councilman Bob Ferguson, a Shoreline Democrat, as a sponsor.
``Numerous rural residents have made it crystal-clear they believe they have no voice on issues that impact their property and their lives,'' Ferguson said in a release.
Initially, former County Councilman Steve Hammond of Enumclaw was considered and promoted as a candidate for the position. However, Hammond did not make the list of the final three finalists.
Dunn, who defeated Hammond in the 9th District GOP primary, said he was disappointed that Hammond wasn't appointed to the job, but ``I am satisfied that this guy will be very good in that role.''
Dean Radford covers King County. He can be reached at dean.radford@kingcoun tyjournal.com or 253-872-6719.