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Purpose. The City of Ferndale (“City”) is issuing this Request for Qualifications (RFQ) in its normal course of business and is requesting proposals from individual, licensed attorneys and/or law firms for the purpose of selecting a Hearings Examiner experienced in the areas of land use law, real property law, city planning and development, and code enforcement.  Applicants may specialize in one or all areas and must be familiar, or have the ability to quickly familiarize themselves, with the City of Ferndale zoning, subdivision and building codes and all other applicable City codes, ordinances, regulations, and policies as well as applicable Washington State laws.  The City’s needs are outlined in the following RFQ.

Background.  The City of Ferndale, Washington, is located in the northwest corner of Washington State.  With a population of 16,300, Ferndale is proudly one of the fastest growing communities in the region, and one of the fastest-densifying cities in Washington State.  The City has emerged as a rural bedroom community to a small city that is experiencing a combination of light industrial, commercial, and residential growth.  Historically, the City’s residential growth has been in the form of detached single-family developments but within the last decade the City has experienced tremendous multifamily and “missing middle” residential growth.

Ferndale prides itself in remaining on the cutting edge in developing land use regulations that can support sustainable future growth in the mid 21st Century and beyond, and is recognized as a state leader in these efforts, many of which are new or novel in the area and in the state.  As a fully GMA-compliant community on complex topography (consisting of floodplain, wetlands, steep slopes, agricultural land, shoreline, and more), development in Ferndale is sometimes challenging and complex.

The Ferndale Hearings Examiner will be tasked with holding public hearings and making final decisions on the vast majority of non-legislative land use development applications requiring a public hearing.  The Ferndale City Council has determined that it is most appropriate to appoint a professional third party to evaluate such development proposals against adopted regulations, and to evaluate the proposal by utilizing staff-developed reports and considering the applicant’s proposals as well as public and agency comments.  The Hearings Examiner acts as the Board of Appeals for the City and hears administrative decisions and interpretations issued by the City Building Official and appeals of decisions related to construction standards.  The Hearings Examiner is also responsible for considering all civil code enforcement appeals that are made to the City, the majority of which relate to land use, and which typically involve the City’s Community Development or Public Works Department, or conditions established by third party agencies such as Whatcom County Fire District 7, Sanitary Service Company (SSC), and other reviewing bodies.

The nature and volume of Hearing Examiner responsibilities may vary significantly from month to month and year to year.  The City projects approximately 3-6 hearings per year, the majority of which are related to a combination of private development applications (subdivisions, conditional uses, etc.) and appeals.

The City of Ferndale Hearings Examiner operates independently of the City, and is not provided office space or support staff.  The City provides space for public hearings and a designated support staff person that  serves as a liaison to the Hearings Examiner, and who is responsible for a range of support services such as public noticing, preparation of the record and supporting documents, clerical support and record keeping, and more.  At the option of the Hearings Examiner, public hearings may be held remotely, in-person, or as hybrid meetings, and City facilities are equipped to support these functions.

The Hearings Examiner’s contact with the City shall be through the City Administrator for contractual matters, and the designated support staff person for permitting matters and administrative appeals.  Apart from communications about procedural matters, there shall be no ex parte communications between the Hearings Examiner and any City officer or employee on any substantive matter before the Hearings Examiner.


The City will follow the following timetable:

Issue RFP                                                                                        December 15, 2023

Deadline for Submittal of Qualifications                                January 19, 2024

Council Review and Approval                                                    February 5, 2024

Notify Individual/Firm Chosen                                                  February 6, 2024


 All proposals should be sent to:

Susan Duncan, Administrative Services Director

City of Ferndale

PO Box 936

Ferndale, WA 98248

  1. If submitted on paper, all proposals must be in a sealed envelope and clearly labeled in the lower left-hand corner. If submitted by email, all proposals must be clearly labeled in the subject line.  The label shall identify the contents as “RFP Hearings Examiner.”
  2. All proposals must be received by the Deadline for Submittal of Proposals detailed in Section II., Time Schedule, at which time they will be opened.  In-person or telephone proposals will not be accepted.  The City reserves the right to consider the Deadline as a first opening of proposals, and to extend the deadline without notice should the City determine that it is appropriate.
  3. Proposals should be prepared simply and economically, providing a straightforward, concise description of the provider’s capabilities to satisfy the requirements of the request. Special bindings, colored displays, promotional materials, etc. are not desired.  Emphasis should be on completeness and clarity of content.
  4. The City Administrator or representative will notify the firm or individual selected by the date stated in Section II., Time Schedule.
  5. All proposals must include the following information:
  • The name of the individual applicant or firm and contact information.
  • The names of individuals from those firms who will be working on the project and their areas of expertise and expected responsibility if selected.
  • Specific experience of the individuals relative to the proposed scope of work.
  • A proposed outline of tasks for a typical hearing, including the estimated number of hours by type of personnel required to complete each task.

A proposed fee for each type of hearing (see scope of services for types of hearings to be performed) based on the above outline of tasks and hours.  The City may consider different pricing structures for the proposal:  an hourly rate, a fixed-rate, per case rate, or a hybrid rate, such as a fixed rate with an hourly rate associated with certain hearing types.

  • References on all proposed services.
  • If the applicant has had prior Hearings Examiner or other judicial experience, examples of final written decisions issued by the applicant.
  • A proposed compensation structure, as specified in Section VII.A.


  1. Responsiveness of written proposal to the purpose and scope of service
  2. Price
  3. Ability and history of successfully completing contracts of this type, meeting projected deadlines, and experience in similar work.
  4. Interview

Each proposal will be independently evaluated on factors one through four.

  1. The City reserves the right to reject any and all proposals, and to waive minor irregularities in any proposal.
  2. The City reserves the right to request clarification of information submitted, and to request additional information from any proposer.
  3. The City reserves the right to award any contract to the next most qualified contractor, if the successful contractor does not execute a contract within thirty (30) days of the award of the proposal.
  4. The contract resulting from acceptance of a proposal by the City shall be in a form supplied or approved by the City, and shall reflect the specifications in this RFP. A copy of the existing contract shall be made available for review upon request and shall include requirements to comply with ADA, Civil Rights Act, and EEO requirements.  The City reserves the right to reject any proposed agreement or contract that does not conform to the specifications contained in this RFP, and which is not approved by the City Attorney.
  5. The City shall not be responsible for any costs incurred by the individual or firm in preparing, submitting, or presenting its response to the RFP.

The individual or firm with which the City contracts shall perform all duties of the Hearings Examiner described in and pursuant to the jurisdiction, power and authority established in Chapter 14.17 of the Ferndale Municipal Code (Procedural Rules for the City of Ferndale Hearings Examiner), as well as FMC Chapter 14.11 (Decisions and Appeals), FMC Chapter 1.12 (Enforcement), and FMC Chapter 2.25 (Board of Appeals) and to preside over topics as described by the Ferndale Municipal Code and the Ferndale Comprehensive Plan as it now exists or is hereafter amended including but not limited to:

  • Title 3 Revenue and Finance
  • Title 5 Business Taxes, Licenses, and Regulations
  • Title 6 Animals
  • Title 8 Health and Safety
  • Title 12 Streets, Sidewalks, and Public Places
  • Title 13 Public Services
  • Title 14 Development Review and Application Procedures
  • Title 15 Buildings and Construction
  • Title 16 Environment
  • Title 17 Subdivisions
  • Title 18 Zoning
  • Title 19 Ferndale Development Standards

Applicants shall be expected to hear all hearing types and all administrative appeals.

All duties shall be performed in accordance with all applicable federal, state and City laws, including but not limited to, Whatcom County and City of Ferndale development regulations and standards, the State Environmental Policy Act, the  State Shoreline Management Act, the State Open Public Meetings Act,  and all applicable City codes, ordinances, resolutions, standards or policies, as now existing or hereafter adopted or amended.  The Hearings Examiner shall not review proposed City legislation prior to enaction, nor shall  the Hearings Examiner have any authority to make any inquiries, recommendations, comments or decisions related to City  legislation in their role as Hearings Examiner.

The Hearings Examiner shall provide  the following clerical services and supplies: the preparation of  all decisions issued by the Hearings Examiner, research, office equipment and other office supplies, time keeping and invoicing, and office space (if necessary).  The City will provide the following clerical services and supplies:   mailing decisions to parties of record (including necessary copying and paper supplies), developing staff reports and exhibits, coordinating public hearing dates and venues, maintaining the public record, and marking exhibits.

All clerical duties shall be performed pursuant to the direction of the City Administrator, acting at the direction of the Mayor or their designee. However, under no circumstances will the City Administrator or Mayor have any involvement in substantive Hearings Examiner deliberations and decisions on applications and appeals, and the Hearings Examiner shall at all times remain an independent body in that regard.

All duties shall be performed in a manner consistent with accepted practices for other similar services, including but not limited to conducting orderly and impartial hearings, creating a professional and courteous environment for applicants, citizens, and staff, and the preparation of findings and conclusions which are understandable and based upon reasoning, all applicable laws, relevant precedents, and which are all received in a timely manner.


  1. As part of the application presented, please present detailed information on the individual or firm’s proposed fee structure for the services proposed. Please specify any additional fees, charges, expenses, etc. that are, or may be, billable to the City.  All rates quotes shall be full cost inclusive of sales tax and other government fees, taxes and charges and valid throughout the contract period unless otherwise amended and agreed to by both parties in writing.  Please provide both a per-case fixed rate fee structure and an hourly rate fee structure and include pricing structure for hearing services and clerical support.  If desirable, please also provide a hybrid fee structure which provides for a reduced fixed rate fee structure and an hourly rate fee structure associated with public hearings.
  2. Payment by the City for services rendered will only be made after the services have been performed, an itemized billing statement (invoice) is submitted in the form specified by the City and the invoice is approved by the appropriate City representative. The invoice shall specifically set forth the services performed, the name of the person performing such services, and the hourly labor charge rate for such person.  Payment shall be made on a monthly basis, within thirty (30) days after receipt of such billing statement.