LETTER: Resident takes on Southwest Suburban Sewer District on Land Use
[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The B-Town Blog nor its staff:]
Southwest Suburban Sewer District vs. Private Property Owner, the “taking” of private property.
The Five “D’s” of Government: Deny, Deflect, Delay, Deter and Defend.
The following is a story of severe “land use” abuse by a municipality running over a private land owner:
The District has been taking prohibited and unnecessary shortcuts through my property severely diminishing the value, peace and quiet of this incredible place. It’s historic, a place of countless community meetings, 2 weddings, third runway fight, Sierra Club pancake breakfasts and so much more.
The Southwest Suburban Sewer District originally wanted to build their plant at “The Cove” property in Normandy Park in the 1950’s as my next door neighbor. The City of Normandy Park incorporated to prevent that from happening in 1953. My Dad helped convince them not to build at the Cove but rather at their present day site at 1015 SW 174th. (Highline Times 1957 “Rough ride for the Mayor”)
Our property upstream from the District is nestled in along Miller Creek full of wildlife: hawks, eagles, coyotes, red tail fox, owls, salmon, trout, blue heron, sometimes deer and countless other critters. Some things are worth preserving.
In the mid 1980’s, some mandate to perform secondary treatment of the sludge and compost they produce required that they build an access road from 8th Ave. SW through my family’s property (since 1938) for compost/sludge hauling. In 1986, a very specific compost facility easement was signed. In a just a few months they began using the access road for any and all reasons at any hour of the day and night. My family, trying to be good supportive neighbors, verbally asked them to knock it off. In 1987, an upper access gate was installed and a new easement agreement was signed limiting access hours and days, 8 am-4 pm, Monday through Friday. It didn’t take long before that agreement was also breached and abused.
Again, my family asked them repeatedly to honor the easement agreement. For brief times they did. It’s taken constant friendly reminders as well as requests for them to do the required landscaping along the easement. They refused to do the landscaping for over 10 years leaving it to my family to do it. Of course, they don’t want to pay claiming statue of limitations.
(This same road is causing my road to slide slowly down the hill from a huge clay earthen dam plugging up all the runoff from the surrounding hillsides.)
In pure frustration about the abuse of the road and lack of landscaping in the past I finally asked the General Manager to READ THE CONTRACT. They immediately shut down the road use to all vehicles except the permitted compost haulers from mid-December to mid-January accessing the easement only from 8-4, M-F. The momentary peace and quiet was amazing. They used their original entrance that exits onto Snake Road or 11th Pl. SW by the Sylvester Bridge.
During that time frame, the District insisted that a new temporary license be granted for them to continue using the road as they have “historically enjoyed” abusing. Under extreme pressure, legal intimidation and threats to condemn my property if I didn’t cave in and let them use the road as they please, I did. Basically, there are no limits as written that they can’t claim some right to use, 24/7 365 days a year. There is no enforcement tool, no repercussions for breach, no fines, no protection for my family. This is all in exchange for a small monthly stipend. They refuse to make good the past 20+ years of abuse with a reasonable ask offering roughly 25 cents on the dollar.
On March 6th, 2013, they were given a 30 day notice to terminate the temporary license beginning April 7th, 2013. They have refused to honor this claiming I have no right to terminate the agreement and continue to use the road business as usual. I am not the only owner of this property, they have only my signature.
The 1986/87 easement agreement(s) for compost use only have an average of 390+/- compost haulers per year. Their common present vehicle use runs about 44 one way trips per day through my yard and property. That is a total of 11, 440 trips per year, an undue over-burden to anyone particularly when it is specifically prohibited by the original easement agreement.
I’m at my wits end and need help, ideas, legal counsel and thoughts on how to rein in such incredibly arrogant abuse of my property. Until and unless a new reasonable temporary access agreement can be written with enforceable access hours, limits on use with fines for abuse, the road is closed to all non-compost traffic. The District has offered to pay for a mediator but they’ve never honored any agreement for long, what faith should I have in that?
– Brett Fish
General Manager, Southwest Suburban Sewer District
431 SW Ambaum Blvd,
Burien, WA 98166
Ron Hall, Miller Creek Plant staff and Commissioners,
This is a reminder and notice given that the “Temporary License” dated January 14th, 2013 will be terminated at the close of business Friday, April 5, 2013. The District was given a 30 day notice on March 6, 2013, see below in italics.
Given the fact that the District does not have a valid license document, is a guest on this property and began breaching the terms only 40 calendar days after signing the license, the “Temporary License Agreement” is terminated . The terms of the January 9, 1986 and January 14, 1987 original license agreements will be vigorously enforced beginning Monday, April 7, 2013.
Until and unless an new temporary agreement is written with the original 8-4 hours and M-F days of access, strong definable limits on small and personal vehicles, vendors, consultants, plant visitors including penalties for misuse, the original agreement(s) signed in 1986 & 1987 shall prevail.
Payment as requested for the past misuse of the original license agreement will have a beneficial influence on the creation and terms of any new agreement.
The details and support:
“The License” agreement
“The License” agreement signed January 14, 2013 is fatally flawed, incomplete, defective on its face, coerced and unrecordable.
The agreement in your offices on January 14, 2013 included the newer “Exhibit C” agreement signed by my Dad January 14, 1987 which superceded the January 9, 1986 document emailed to me by the District. The newer document specifically states gate hours which the District is refusing to honor except for the term “daytime hours” which has also been violated/breached numerous times.
The undefined and vague language of the current license is a blank check for the District to use the road any time. There are no definitions, penalties, repercussions or fines for violations. The heavy use continues to be disturbing, invasive, abusive and degrades our peace, security and diminishes the value of the property coming and going at any hour claiming “District business hours” (open ended), or “unavoidable scheduling conflicts” including weekend entries and refusal to honor by the 8-4 gate hours written in the January 14, 1987 agreement.
The purpose of the original agreement License signed by my Dad was specifically written to prevent abuse of the road for common every day employee use, vendors, suppliers, consultants, visitors, rude early morning and late night ingress/egress. The road was built for compost/sludge hauling and compost customers only. Emergency vehicles such as Police Fire and medical aid are excepted. The Fire Department has a lock box at the upper gate.
What you term “historical enjoyment” (read abuse) of the use of the road for (any and) all District uses and “business hours” defines a historical breach of the terms of the original license. We have voiced our complaints numerous times over the years. Historically, after complaining, there’s been very momentary compliance and then right back to bad old habits. Misuse particularly escalated after my Dad passed away-very telling.
Frequency of use
Frequently occurring, 44 vehicle one way trips per day including an average of 1.5 daily compost trips, extends out to 11,440 one way trips a year. The single day range is 17 to over 80 one way trips. Deducting 390 originally permitted compost trips extends out to 11,010 trips for a year, a clear illustration of “over burdened use” of the road.
The District claims safety as justification for the open use of the compost access road. The District’s original entrance on 174th/11 Place SW has two outlets that have been used since the opening of the facility in the 1960’s. The safe outlet is “Snake Road”. The 11th Place SW path is unnecessary since there is a safe alternative route. “Safety” is not the issue.
Huge numbers of one way trips include but are not limited to small x-cab Ford pickup trucks, Taurus, Prius, full size pick up, flatbed, stake bed, lift gate, boom truck and utility trucks plus employees personal vehicles accounting for 96.5% of the daily vehicle trips. Clearly, safety is not the issue for these smaller vehicles using your original entrance and “Snake Road”.
Your claims of “safety” are merely employee and vendor convenience which degrades and diminishes the value, peace and serenity of this property with noise, diesel smoke, constant flows of unwanted, previously specifically unpermitted traffic. Some days the traffic is so thick vehicles criss-cross or pass by back-to-back. Speeding is still occurs at times and continues in spite of the signs.
The upper gate was installed in 1987 in response to the misuse of the road for our privacy, security and peace from unwanted vehicles, lost drivers, short cut throughs, tourists, plant visitors and criminal elements. When the upper gate is open we are exposed. We can’t control the lower gate on your property but we can control the upper gate on our property.
Ron, you stated that only employees have the gate key(s), no vendors. Compost hauling is clearly scheduled as the need arises. Compost customers can call during the 7:30-4:00 pm hours as your previous sign stated.
Your legal threats of “prescriptive easement” are akin to taking a squatter’s rights defense. Sufficient documentation has been located to prove our history of complaints.
Media and Police
You have previously threatened to call the Police on me if deter unlicensed pre-hours access to the property. I will contact the Police and television news media again as needed to air this story to the public. It’s a poster child case story of a municipality’s abusive “take” from the little guy using legal intimidation and threats of condemnation.
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