• Snohomish County considers ordinance that gives police more authority over nuisance properties

    By: Joanna Small


    Snohomish County may soon have a new tool to fight nuisance properties, in the form of an ordinance.

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    Right now, it can take years and dozens of calls to police for a problem house, usually inhabited by squatters, to be vacated.

    “It was a new house,” Nancy Duchan told us, standing on her front porch.

    Fifty years later, she still loves the house near Lynnwood where she raised her family.

    “It was perfect for the kids,” Nancy explained, and while the kids are grown with their own kids now, she has gone to great lengths to ensure the house doesn’t show its age.

    The problem is that while she can control the state of her own property, she cannot control her neighbor’s.

    The house next door was a nuisance property eventually taken over by the deceased owner’s adult son.

    “They moved into a motor home in the driveway and it was there for over 20 years,” Nancy said.  “Lots of drug sales, lots of fights — the police knew it well.”

    They may have known it but they couldn’t stop it.

    “The sheriff wanted to get them out but their hands were tied.”

    There are more than 100 open nuisance property cases in Snohomish County.

    “It is disappointing, it’s frustrating, it’s a really tough issue,” Snohomish County Council member Nate Nehring told KIRO 7.

    Nehring is proposing a nuisance property ordinance that establishes what qualifies as a nuisance property and when police can force compliance.

    “What it says is if there are four different instances where a crime is being committed in 90 days or eight instances in 360 days the officer would record that, document it, issue a citation,” which will be passed to the prosecutor to determine what, if any, actions to take.

    That process does not exist in Snohomish County right now, and Nehring says they need it.  He rode along with sheriff’s deputies to some of the worst nuisance properties in the county.

    “These are properties where you’ve got trash all over the property, you’ve got feces on it that are causing issues for neighbors. On one of the properties there were rats going from it to the neighbor’s property,” Nehring said.

    After years, the house next door to Nancy was finally vacated — but not by police.  Another member of the owner's family sold it and now it’s being flipped, but Nancy says decades are too long to wait — for her and for the police officers who answer her calls.

     “Like I said, I’ve been calling them off and on for 20 years,” she concluded.

    The Snohomish County Council will discuss the ordinance at the end of March.  It would only apply to properties where there's a history of criminal activity.

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