Cheney sues to get fire hydrants in development
May 17, 2007
By JOHN McCALLUM
The city of Cheney is proceeding with a civil suit against Myers Mobile Home Park owner Thomas E. Myers, alleging he has failed to comply with an order to install three fire hydrants at his development along West First Street.
The suit arises from a May 4, 2001 decision by the Cheney Fire Board of Appeals telling Myers to comply with 1994 and 1997 editions of the Uniform Fire Code requiring adequate means of fire suppression.
Cheney is seeking $369,000 in penalties from Myers as per its municipal code, which classifies violations of the final order of the fire board is as a Class 1 civil infraction punishable by a fine of $250 per day of noncompliance with the order.
Filing documents indicate the time Myers has been out of compliance runs from May 9, 2005 to May 9, 2007.
Washington law requires an amount equal to 105 percent of the fine be tacked on to fund the Public Safety and Education Account – bringing the total daily amount Myers is being fined to $512.50 – times 720 days.
A May 10, 2000 notice from then-Fire Chief and building official John Montague to Myers noted the development was out of compliance with the fire codes and needed hydrants, but did not specify number or location.
In a second letter on Aug. 22, 2000, Montague told Myers that to be compliant, he needed to install three hydrants because a number of residences were more than 150 feet from the nearest hydrant, resulting in an inadequate source for water on a public street.
“You have to have an adequate source of water to fight a fire,” Cheney City Attorney Dan Maggs said last Friday. “That's what really triggered all this.”
Myers appealed the findings to the Fire Board, which ruled against him in May 2001.
Myers' attorney Dennis Clayton said his client's main contention is that the plans for the 44-unit mobile home park were approved by the city in 1995, including plans for all utilities and services.
Myers built out the development, and Clayton said city officials, including Montague, signed off on inspections of the work. From 1996 to 1999, Clayton said the city issued permits to 29 tenants to move and site homes on lots in the development.
“Myers didn't issue those permits – the city did,” Clayton said.
He added that the city put no conditions on any permits, such as a fire hydrant needed after so many lots are built out, until five years after the fact when they sent the first notice telling Myers to install the hydrants, as well as provide for a pair of dead-end street turnarounds for fire trucks.
Clayton questions why the city didn't require these on the original drawings, and is now coming back and telling Myers he must dig up and virtually redesign his development to comply with codes.
“That's the beef. Change the configuration five years after the fact,” he said.
Clayton also said other mobile home park owners weren't told to install additional hydrants as their developments grew. Cheney codes allow a property owner to demand the Fire Chief issue such corrective notices to other properties if requested.
According to filing documents, Myers was allowed to provide such a list, but failed to do so, something Clayton disputes.
“If he really thinks we're being unfair with him with these standards, then it's there,” Maggs said of the provision.
According to the notice of civil infraction, Myers can either pay the $369,000 fine, request a hearing to explain mitigating circumstances surrounding the infraction, or contest the infraction itself. Clayton said Monday that he hadn't had a final meeting with Myers regarding the civil suit, but it was his belief it would be contested.
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org