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Originally published September 24, 2013 at 5:44 PM | Page modified September 24, 2013 at 5:49 PM

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Green Lake neighbors’ appeal on backyard house rejected

A federal judge has rejected an appeal from Green Lake neighbors that a three-story house in the backyard of an existing bungalow violated their property rights.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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A judge has rejected a Green Lake neighborhood’s challenge to a three-story home built in the backyard of an existing bungalow.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Zilly said the Seattle building code provides for several exceptions to zoned lot size to allow for infill development. He said the neighbors failed to show that they had a constitutional property right that prevented such development.

Additionally, Zilly rejected arguments that the city’s lack of notice to the neighbors about the new construction effectively prevented them from challenging the project. Appeals of city land-use decisions must be filed within 21 days, but the neighbors said they weren’t aware of the development until a bulldozer showed up in the backyard of the old bungalow.

“You have a right to contest a land-use decision (under state law) but if you don’t know about the decision, this is an empty right,” said Rita Latsinova, a Seattle attorney and a neighbor who brought the suit along with other property owners under the name “Neighbors for Notice.”

She said the group hadn’t decided whether to appeal the ruling.

The lawsuit is one of several against the city Department of Planning and Development over construction of new homes on back and side yards of existing houses, often using historic tax records that don’t appear on current zoning maps.

The City Council placed a moratorium of small-lot development a year ago and plans to take up proposed new rules in November. The proposal would limit the use of historic records for creating new lots but wouldn’t require notice to surrounding property owners.

Lynn Thompson: lthompson@seattletimes.com or 206-464-8305. On Twitter @lthompsontimes

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