Clallam to raze structures under 2016 settlement

Bill Peach

CLALLAM BAY — Clallam County crews will raze a former Clallam Bay residence and outbuilding as part of a negotiated settlement of a 2014 lawsuit.

To meet a June 1 target deadline, two commissioners Monday directed staff to salvage items from the county-owned property at 120 Salt Air St. and demolish the structures in-house rather than hire an outside contractor for the job.

“I think it would probably be September or something like that if we wanted to contract it out,” County Engineer Ross Tyler said in the commissioners’ work session.

Clallam County is required to remove the structures formerly owned by David and Krisanne Cebelak under the terms of a May 2016 settlement to Lange et al v. Clallam County, a Public Records Act lawsuit filed by Scott and Elizabeth Lange.

The property is slated to become an undeveloped county park with public beach access.

The Clallam County Parks, Fair and Facilities Department will use items from the buildings, including kitchen cabinets, bathroom fixtures, wooden doors and a ductless heat pump system, as replacement parts, Director Joel Winborn said.

Commissioners Bill Peach and Mark Ozias on Monday directed Tyler and Winborn to obtain permits and remove the structures at their “earliest convenience,” using June 1 as a target.

Commissioner Randy Johnson had an excused absence.

“We’d have to really turn-and-burn to make June 1,” Tyler said.

Peach, whose district includes Clallam Bay, said he was “a little concerned” about dragging out the demolition process.

“If we go and remove, if you will, the more valuable items and then wait to take the building down, I hate to say this, but I think we would create an attractive nuisance for the people that have their heroin or whatever it is they want to do that’s not legal,” Peach said.

“I’d like to totally, totally dismiss that opportunity.”

Peach suggested using the Road Department’s annual surplus auction for items that the Parks, Fair and Facilities Department cannot use.

“We’re giving people an opportunity, we’re assuring them, that none of this is just going to get stacked in a corner and forgotten about,” Peach said.

Last week, Peach, Winborn, Tyler and other county staff met with 11 Clallam Bay residents in Clallam Bay to discuss the county’s plans for the Salt Air Street property.

Civil Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Brian Wendt gave a history of the settlement agreement, which ended 17 years’ worth of complex land-use litigation.

Under the terms of the settlement, Clallam County made a $307,432 payment to the Cebelaks for the lot and buildings at 120 Salt Air St. and agreed to purchase two neighboring lots from the Langes for $210,000 cash.

In their meeting with county officials April 13, Clallam Bay citizens favored removing the Cebelak house but raised concerns about a park in their neighborhood, Winborn said.

Concerns included after-hours use and potential nuisance issues, Wendt said.

“When many people hear the term ‘park,’ everybody has a different idea of what exactly that means,” Winborn said.

“It’s really a public beach access location,” Winborn said of the Clallam Bay property.

“It’s not so much a park where people are going to come and congregate; it’s a place for people to park and access the beach, a lot of beach area, a lot of prime beach real estate.”

Under the terms of the Lange settlement, the county must remove the 1,104-square-foot former Cebelak house and 396-square-foot outbuilding in a “reasonable time after closing of the sale.”

The agreement requires that the land be dedicated for public use, Wendt said.

“I think everyone [in Clallam Bay] really understood these were complicated issues that we were resolving,” Wendt said.

“I think everyone walked away with an understanding that the county is committed to discharging its obligations and honoring its obligation under the settlement, that we want to wrap this up just as soon as possible.”

The six-page, hand-written settlement agreement is available on the county’s website, www.clallam.net.

The 2014 lawsuit centered on the county’s processing of public records sought by the Langes between 2009 and 2013, Prosecuting Attorney Mark Nichols said in a June 30, 2016, memo.

It focused on two main issues: whether the county properly redacted or withheld an email thread pursuant to attorney-client privilege and whether it performed a reasonable search for records sought in 2013 that were connected to 2007 code amendments for land-use regulation, Nichols said in the memo.

Thousands of pages of documents that were sought by the Langes in 2013 were discovered last year in a labeled box in a locked storage room in the basement of the Clallam County Courthouse and on a secured electronic file folder.

That discovery led to the settlement agreement.

In response to the Lange case, Clallam County appointed a full-time public records officer and developed a new public records policy.

Commissioners held a public hearing on the policy April 11 but tabled action to incorporate public comments received before and during the hearing.

The appraised value of the property at 120 Salt Air St. is $237,635, according to Clallam County Assessor’s Office records.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.