Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Snapp Stuck/Gray in the Clear - Ward 4 Candidates Speak

Our city council candidates for Ward 4 recently sent these messages in answer to emails from Bellingham homeowners concerned with illegal rooming houses in their neighborhoods.

Stan Snapp, Candidate for City Council from Ward 4:

"Thanks for your patience in waiting for my reply. This campaign has filled my every waking hour. I was in the Council chambers yesterday [8 October], for both the afternoon and evening discussions. The City Attorney says the numbers of complaints run less than a half dozen per year. I realize that this is a major issue for anyone that has a house full of abusers near your residence. The police say they respond to complaints of noise, litter, and other kinds of abuses. I suspect though that nuisance complaints don't rank very high against the car prowels (sic), minor loss burglery's (sic) and other non-felony crimes that they don't have the manpower to investigate. Also, it seems that if this problem is only a few cases per year, it seems that the City should be able to get after and pressure the offending land lords (sic) without having to create another bureaucracy that licenses all land lords (sic). I don't like the idea of having Codes on the books that are not being enforced. If you have a specific problem in your neighborhood, I hope you will not hesitate to bring it to the attention of the office of the City Attorney."

Damon J. Gray, Candidate for Bellingham City Council - Ward 4:

"Thank you for taking the time to express your concerns regarding R1 zoning enforcement. You are far from alone in your concerns. I have been personally affected in my own neighborhood by the very issue you address. Indeed the home I purchased, and now occupy, was previously rented to seven college students. When my wife and I purchased the home, the neighbors were very relieved to see "mom, dad & the kids" moving into the home. Yet just down the block we have a party house with a history of noise, litter, structural damage, public urination and other assorted obscene activities.

I stop short of calling the R1 zoning unenforceable. We really don't know if it is enforceable or not, because the law has yet to be challenged in court. Such challenges have proved successful in other jurisdictions. I believe it must be challenged here, because, in my estimation, a law on the books that is not enforced is worse than not having the law at all. It conditions the citizens to believe selective obedience to the law is an acceptable system.

Might I suggest that you visit the online blog of [the Zonemaven] at [He] has been diligently pursuing this very issue."

My comment to Stan Snapp:

You still do not appreciate the basic issue which is the proliferation of illegal rooming houses throughout Bellingham. Offered a simplistic response from the Planning Department, the Office of the City Attorney looked no further than the end of its legal nose in providing a technically correct but substantially misleading figure to the council to characterize the extent of the problem. Some members of the council and at least one candidate, unfortunately, accepted the figure without the slightest attempt at verification or contextualization. You can read my take on these “stats” on an earlier blog entry by clicking here.

My comment to Damon Gray:

You hit the nail on the head. Nothing like personal experience to bring home the reality of the problem.

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