Clean-up demands are now in the hands of prosecutor, could lead to jail time, fines
A 45-day deadline to clean up their property at Fish Lake passed May 1 for Michael and Dennis Myers.
So now what?
“They’ve pled guilty to a couple of misdemeanor charges for failing to clean up their property,” deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Dave Hubert said.
The judge sentenced the Myers brothers March 18 and then suspended that sentence on the condition they clean up their property in 45 days, Hubert explained. “That’s where the May 1 deadline comes in.”
The next steps belong to the county inspectors. When that happens, Hubert will be the first to know. “If it has not (been cleaned), our recourse is to report to the judge, ask him to set a hearing for the Myers brothers to respond to the court as to whether they think they’ve actually met the conditions, or if not, why not.”
Depending on what the inspector’s report says, the judge can impose any part of the suspended sentence. Potentially, each brother can face $2,000 in fines and 180 days in jail. “The judge made that very clear at the hearing,” Hubert said.
There are two issues occurring at Myers Park, Dave Jensen, a code compliance officer said. One revolves around building codes while the other is zoning, Jensen’s specialty. “My responsibilities are the junk and the junk vehicles,” Jensen said.
Jensen said his responsibility is to make sure the case doesn’t slip between the cracks. “We’ve spent too much time getting this case into the courts,” he said. “Some stuff has been accomplished, some stuff hasn’t.”
The county has discretion at this point. “I’m just as frustrated as anyone else,” Jensen said. “We’re just going to keep pushing for compliance through the courts.
“I’d probably say 10-percent of our customers don’t appreciate the fact that there are rules and stuff,” Jensen added. “Unfortunately, this property seems to have fallen into that one (category).”
A bigger problem is a house that sits along Cheney-Spokane Road that burned in 2006, and in prominent view near the entrance to the park and biking access. Other violations outlined by the county include a double-wide mobile home parked adjacent to the former DJs Tavern.
“Yes there is a double-wide mobile home that was placed out there without permit,” Spokane County Building Code Enforcement Director Randy Vissia said. “We’re pursuing that at this time.” As for options the Myers have with the mobile home, Vissia said it’s “Get a permit to have the thing placed or remove it, that’s all we’re asking.”
But sending the brothers to jail, or fining them for not complying, does nothing to clean up what neighbors and users of a county park and popular biking trail access point see as both an eyesore, but more of a liability.
The Myers were given a number of options under the law to deal with the burned home. “One, you can demolish it; two, you can get permits to repair it; or three, you have to secure it from vandalism,” Vissia explained.
While the house appears to have been secured to within the letter of the law, it is plain to see there is potential access. A portion of the roof has also collapsed.
So outside of legal remedies and what appear to be further days in court, there may be few ways for authorities and citizens to take care of the problem with the house.
There are some people who will absolutely not do anything until somebody forces the issue, Lisa Jones, city of Spokane fire marshal said.
“There’s things in the state and international fire code that says if you have a vacant building or if you have a hazardous, dangerous building, the fire code official can authorized to have that building be safed up in one way or another,” Jones said.
There are also quality of life avenues, but those are sometimes difficult to use, Jones said. “If you have to drive by or look at or see something that’s just all kinds of nasty,” this may be a remedy.
“If I were to write that up I would write all those things: it’s on a main street, it’s wide open visible to everybody as far as the attractive nuisance aspect,” Jones said. “And the trailhead part, too, I’ll authorize demolitions where it’s near a school, near a daycare or is on a main street very readily visible.”
There are also provisions in Washington state law that allow a government entity to demolish a dangerous structure, charge the owners, and then attach a lien on the property – adding the bill to property taxes. But that has to be enacted into local law first, one official said.
But in the end, it appears incumbent on neighbors and visitors to the public facilities adjacent to the Myers’ property to make a difference. The more people that complain the more weight it carries. That way it’s not just the feeling “That someone’s being super picky,” Jones said.
“Something on a trailhead, something that people will go by a lot, see know is there that would be certainly easier to deal with.”
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.