Phillips Burgess PLLC ranked in 2019 “Best Law Firms”


Phillips Burgess PLLC has been ranked in the 2019 U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” list nationally in 1 practice area and regionally in 2 practice areas.

Firms included in the 2019 “Best Law Firms” list are recognized for professional excellence with persistently impressive rating from clients and peers. Achieving a tiered ranking signals a unique combination of quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise.

The 2019 Edition of “Best Law Firms” includes rankings in 75 national practice areas and 122 metropolitan-based practice areas. A “Law Firm of the Year” is named in 74 of the 75 nationally ranked practice areas.

Ranked firms, presented in tiers, are listed on a national and/or metropolitan scale. Receiving a tier designation reflects the high level of respect a firm has earned among other leading lawyers and clients in the same communities and the same practice areas for their abilities, their professionalism and their integrity.

Phillips Burgess PLLC received the following rankings in the 2019 U.S. News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firm”:

National Tier 2

National Tier 3

     Litigation – Environmental

Regional Tier 1


         Litigation- Environmental

Regional Tier 2 


          Environmental Law


For additional information: Stacey Tuesta, Administrative Assistant,

Official press release here

Stacey Tuesta
Heather Burgess was added to 2020 Best Lawyers® List


Phillips Burgess PLLC is pleased to announce that Managing Partner, Heather Burgess, has been included in the 26th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America. Heather has been recognized each year since 2016 by Best Lawyers in Environmental Law and Litigation and was added to the Land Use and Zoning Law list in 2019. Lawyers who make this list are recognized by peers based on professional expertise, and undergo an authentication process to make sure they are currently practicing and in good standing.

We congratulate Heather once again for being recognized by this respected organization.


For additional information: Stacey Tuesta, Administrative Assistant,

Official press release here

Stacey Tuesta
Growth Management Hearings Board invalidates City of Olympia’s Missing Middle ordinance.

By Tadeu Velloso

The Growth Management Hearings Board recently released a Final Decision and Order invalidating the City of Olympia’s “missing middle” regulations. 

Olympia’s “missing middle” ordinance allows more multifamily housing—duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, accessory dwelling units (ADUs), and courtyard apartments—to be built in low-density neighborhoods.   This plan is referred to as the “missing middle” because, in theory, it provides housing options on the spectrum between single-family homes and large apartment buildings. 

In January, a group called Olympians for Smart Development & Livable Neighborhoods filed a petition for review with the state’s Growth Management Hearings Board. In March, it ruled the city did not thoroughly consider potential environmental impacts as required under the State Environmental Policy Act, or SEPA.

In its July 10th opinion, the Board found the city failed to comply with the Growth Management Act by not anticipating impacts on the environment, public facilities and services. 

The Board was also persuaded by the arguments that the “missing middle” changes fail to implement Olympia’s comprehensive plan, namely the call to preserve “neighborhood character.” 

The city plans on seeking reconsideration of the Board’s decision.

You can read the decision here.

Stacey Tuesta
Long-awaited report on Washington’s future growth released

By: Tadeu Velloso

The William D. Ruckelshaus Center recently released its long-awaited report on the Growth Management Act and related laws as applied to the future growth of Washington State.  In 2017, the Washington State Legislature allocated funds to the Center for a two-year project to create a “Road Map to Washington’s Future.” The project’s purpose was to articulate a vision of Washington’s desired future and identify additions, revisions, or clarifications to the state’s growth management and planning framework needed to reach that future. To understand how the framework aligns with, creates barriers to, and/or supports the desired future of the communities it is meant to serve, the Project Team traveled across the state, gathering information and hearing from nearly 2,500 individuals, which included approximately 400 elected officials.

 The report includes some suggested avenues of transformational and systemic change including:

                1. Funding and revenue generation through equitable and reliable sources;

                2. Adaptive planning at a regional scale through exploration of an Adaptive Management, regionally-focused approaches, and consultation between governments;

                3. Resilience to changing conditions and disasters;

                4. Statewide water planning;

                5. Integration of equity into growth planning; and

                6. A statewide Economic Development Strategy and integrating Ports into Growth Planning.

 To read all four volumes of the report, click here.

Stacey Tuesta
2019 Daniel Bigelow Award Winner

We are pleased to announce that one of the founding members of the firm, Richard G. Phillips, Jr., received the 2019 Daniel Bigelow Award handed out by the Thurston County Bar Association. Current partners, Heather and Trevor, along with associates and support staff attended the TCBA Annual Meeting to watch Mick receive this special honor.

Stacey Tuesta
Transactional Attorney, Michael Kelly graduates from 2019 Business Leadership Academy
BLA-2019-Class Picture.jpg

The staff would like to recognize and congratulate Transactional Attorney, Michael Kelly, on his graduation from the Business Leadership Academy with the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber and Pacific Lutheran University. This was the 41st cohort to participate in this program.

Please see the following press release from Tom Pierson, President and CEO of Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber:

"Michael Kelly, Attorney at Law at Phillips Burgess, PLLC, graduated with the 41st Business Leadership Academy cohort at a ceremony held on April 3, 2019.

“The class of 2019 was a delight to be with as we examined leadership concepts and explored the many ways to be an effective and inspiring leader. With their professionalism, diligence, and thoughtful care, they are sure to make a difference in our community,” said Dr. Catherine Pratt, Faculty Director at Pacific Lutheran University.

Tom Pierson, President and CEO of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber and co-director of the Leadership Academy with Dr. Pratt, agreed, “I am honored to have spent time with the leaders who are graduating from the Business Leadership Academy this week, they are changing the world – starting here in the South Sound!”

The Business Leadership Academy of Tacoma-Pierce County, founded in 1971 and sponsored by the Tacoma Pierce County Chamber and Pacific Lutheran University, offers an opportunity for current and emerging leaders to engage with the business community, explore leadership applications, learn from leaders and visit organizations that make an impact on our community, assess individual strengths, and reflect on opportunities for growth.

The next Business Leadership Academy begins January 29, 2020. Applications will be available soon at"

Stacey Tuesta
Thurston County Realtors Association award
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Partnership of the Year 2018 Award

On March 8th, at the Affiliates Showcase and General Membership meeting,we were surprised to find out that we had been chosen to receive this award. Partner Trevor Zandell went up and accepted the award on behalf of the firm.

We had a great time meeting with others who are part of the real estate network in Thurston County.

Stacey Tuesta
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Washington
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Tadeu Velloso, one of our land use and environmental law attorneys, will be a featured speaker at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Washington's Big Brunch fundraiser.  Tadeu will be sharing about his experiences of being one of the program's former Little Brothers and a current Big Brother. Our attorneys will be there, supporting both Tadeu and the organization.  We would love for you to join us!

March 14, 2019 from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM at the Hotel RL in Olympia, WA.

Stacey Tuesta
New Tacoma Office

We are excited to announce that we have moved into a new space in Tacoma. We will be hosting an open house in the near future.

Praece Consulting
High-water line “hydraulic projects” fall within the Dep’t of Fish & Wildlife’s permitting authority

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Washington released its opinion in Spokane County v. Department of Fish and Wildlife. Briefly, anyone seeking to complete a hydraulic project must get a preconstruction approval permit from the Department of Fish and Wildlife. A “hydraulic project” is defined as “the construction or performance of work that will use, divert, obstruct, or change the natural flow or bed of any of the salt or freshwaters of the state” in RCW 77.55.011(11). The Department has the ability to deny or condition a permit to protect fish life. RCW 77.55.021(1). In 2015, the Department promulgated new rules requiring a permit for bridge maintenance and construction, even if the work would occur above the high-water line. WAC 220-660-190. Spokane County, in coalition with other Washington counties, sought an exemption for work done entirely above the high-water line.

The counties first raised their concerns during the comment period of the 2015 rulemaking process. Then, the counties sought guidance from the attorney general. However, the attorney general issued an opinion concluding that the statute was unambiguous and provides the Department with permitting jurisdiction for “all work that will use, divert, obstruct, or change the natural flow or bed of any of the salt or freshwaters of the state," regardless of whether the activity is above or below ordinary high-water lines. The counties challenged the interpretation in court and lost and thereafter appealed the decision directly to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court affirmed.

Considering the statute’s plain language, the Court found the statutory definition of “hydraulic project” unambiguous and held that the definition applies to projects above the high-water line that are reasonably certain to “use, divert, obstruct, or change the natural flow or bed of any of the salt or freshwaters of the state.” The Court deferred to the Department's expertise in determining which projects meet that standard. The Court looked to the statute’s legislative history and found examples of projects that would be. Ultimately, the Court held that the plain language of RCW 77.55.021 grants permitting authority to the Department of Fish and Wildlife for upland projects that meet the effects test set forth in RCW 77.55.011(11). The Court also held that the effects test requires reasonable certainty, not absolute certainty.

Stacey TuestaRegulation