ordinance squelches humanitarian act;
harms right of private ownership
Sequim, WA - Jerry Levesque moved to
Sequim, WA to enjoy the small town atmosphere of the area,
and to contribute to his community, as he has always done
throughout his adult life.
Originally from a small town in Maine, Jerry served
in the Navy during the Vietnam War.
After his discharge, he worked at a number of
businesses, including drapery installation, auctioneering,
and presently owns and operates Sequim Auto Sales with his
wife Alanna. Jerry
works hard: you can often see him running his tractor in the
fields, and doing a variety of other jobs.
A couple of years ago, Jerry bought a
little piece of property along the Dungeness River where he
parked his trailer so his family and friends could have a
get-a-way place to go for picnics or a weekend vacation.
To get there takes a short drive down a private dirt
road along which are other homes and recreational lots.
To reach the river from the trailer takes a hike up
and over a berm, then down to the river – quite a distance
from the road. The
short hike to the river is a beautiful area, filled with
trees and flowers, and an ancient bench overlooking the
river, now overgrown with moss where previous owners
probably sat and enjoyed the view in bygone days.
When Jerry placed his little trailer at
the roadway, he built up the driveway so the rain would have
a place to go. He
also brought in an above ground holding tank, as the
property would not allow underground septics.
About a year ago, a fellow Jerry had
done business with, also a Vietnam vet, suffered a heart
attack and could no longer work.
Jerry learned that he and his wife had lost
everything, and had no place to live.
Jerry offered to let them stay in the RV rather than
live on the streets.
In times past, nothing would have been
made of this situation.
The good deed that Jerry had done would probably have
gone unnoticed, and the vet would have had a place to live
until he recovered sufficiently to get back on his feet.
Today, that’s not the case.
Today, a county ordinance is in place called the
Critical Areas Code. That
ordinance was passed last year despite loud opposition by
many local people – people who took time to show up at the
public hearings to voice their reasons why this would not be
a good piece of legislation.
It was passed anyway.
And because it was passed, Jerry Levesque is in a lot
Somehow, someone “saw” the trailer
on Jerry’s property (despite the fact that the only way in
to see the property would be to cross private property), and
turned Jerry in to the county. An appointed “code enforcement officer” for the Critical
Areas Code brought a “cease and desist” order against
Jerry, and ordered him to remove everything on the property
back to its “natural” state – at a cost of
Wait a minute, Jerry said.
I’m not hurting anybody; in fact, I’m helping
not hurting the environment, the river or the fish.
He sought legal advice, and was told that he could
take his case to the Hearings Examiner.
He did so, believing he could present his case, and
that the Examiner would see the folly of making him remove
the little trailer and dirt and holding tank – along with
removing the ill vet who would now have no place to go.
He also found that the law provided for a “two hour
rule” – that is, if he could remove everything off the
property in two hours, in the event of a 100-year flood, he
could do so quite easily.
The hearings examiner reported, after
all the testimony had been made, that even though the RV,
holding tank and improved driveway did not cause any harm,
he still had to deny the appeal because under the code, the
trailer, driveway improvement and holding tank were
considered “development” to the property, and Jerry
could not “develop” the property without first receiving
“permission” from the county, at great expense.
So far, Jerry has spent in excess of
$3,000 trying to defend his right to use his own property.
The case that was brought before the hearing examiner
showed that there was no harm to the river, to the
environment, or to anyone in what he had done to his own
power of that decision did not lie with the hearing
examiner, however. It lies with the “Administrator” – one person,
unelected and not responsible to the people – who
apparently has total control over what a person does with
Jerry is not the only individual who
has suffered at the hands of the onerous code.
Perry Bolster, a local realtor, decided to remove a
dead stumps from his land.
He did so – and was cited in violation of the code,
due to the reason that the stump was located in a “buffer
The Critical Areas Code and other
land-use regulations encompass
more than 55% of Clallam County. If an individual wants to
do anything on their property, from building a fence, to
adding to an outbuilding, to cutting tree branches – the
hardship lies on the property owner.
They are guilty until proved innocent – or until
they pay to have the county representative physically
inspect their property to tell them whether they will be
allowed to do what they want to do with it – and pay the
county a fee to do so. Other fees and charges may have to be
paid by the landowner before anything can be started, from
hiring an expert to provide the required reports, to fees
necessary to obtain a variance, if one would be allowed by
the administrator. Whatever
the decision, it lies strictly in the hands of the
“Administrator” to interpret.
Many local citizens believe the
Critical Areas Code is far too broad in its language, and,
as a result, is open to subjective interpretation, and
hence, many potential lawsuits.
In the Dec. 17, 2000 issue of the
Sunday daily paper, there were two announcements relating to
the Critical Areas Code.
The first was a news story about the budget, wherein
a new position of “code enforcement attorney” will be
created, whose duty it will be to “write and enforce
county code.” The
salary for the position was announced at $63,738.00 per
year. The second was located in the “help wanted” section,
where a position of “Code Compliance Officer II” is
offered at a monthly salary from $3,206.94 to $3,898.05
starting, plus benefits. Between these two positions (with more to come), the cost to
the taxpayers will be well over $100,000 per year.
Where will this money come from?
Could it be that the enforcement officer and attorney
will be aiming their sights at the landowners who may be in
“violation” of the code, and forced to pay fines from
$1,000 to $25,000?
What is wrong with this picture???
Many people in Clallam County believe the
Critical Areas Code is bad law.
It harms the citizens / taxpayers that pay to fund it
and the employees that enforce it.
It needs to be repealed.