PORT ANGELES — Clallam County officials next week will discuss potential remedies for what has been called a junk property at Lake Dawn, including possible legal action.
Nine Lake Dawn property owners urged county commissioners to take action Tuesday, citing fire danger, noise and pollution originating from three adjoining lots at 100 Lake Dawn Road.
Commissioners agreed to schedule a closed-door executive session with representatives of the Sheriff’s Office, Department of Community Development and Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to discuss options that may include a warrant of abatement or criminal citations for the property owner.
Commissioner Randy Johnson, whose central-county District 2 includes Lake Dawn, suggested the session “so that we have a plan of attack.”
“I know that my fellow commissioners and I are anxious to do everything that we can within our scope of responsibility to try and provide some assistance,” Commission Chair Mark Ozias told the Lake Dawn residents who testified Tuesday.
Commissioner Bill Peach was excused.
An executive session was scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The 45-minute session will include a review of “law enforcement and legal actions that could be taken to help remediate the code violations,” according to an executive summary.
The subject property is owned by Cody Coughenour, who has been fined $5,000 by the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency (ORCCA) and $2,500 by Clallam County code enforcement for pollution and code violations.
“It would seem like enough warnings have been given,” said Craig Ritchie, a Lake Dawn resident and retired Sequim City Attorney.
“It is time to use the public nuisance statues and the fine-imposing regulations to pursue the remedies that we’ve got so that this kind of thing doesn’t happen and doesn’t literally mess up the surrounding area.
“It’s not something that you take lightly when you go in and do a public nuisance declaration and go for abatement and take all these efforts,” Ritchie added, “but it looks like now is the time to get that started.”
Mary Wegmann urged commissioners to enforce existing code.
“We want fines to be imposed,” she said.
“If the code violations continue, then we want the county to move to an abatement public nuisance process.
“In other words, we are asking county officials to use the tools they have in the public interest to stop this situation from developing into a disaster,” Wegmann added.
Wegmann and others raised concerns about fire danger, junk vehicles, late-night noise, needles and human waste on the property.
According to residents, the troubles at Lake Dawn began last fall after Coughenour’s father, former Superior Court Judge Brian Coughenour, was ordered by the city of Port Angeles to remove debris from his properties on the 100 block of East Fifth Street behind the Port Angeles Safeway.
Cody Coughenour managed his father’s East Fifth Street properties and now owns the three adjoining parcels at 100, 104 and 108 Lake Dawn Road.
“I’ve lived at Lake Dawn for 48 years, and prior to this have not witnessed the level of anxiety in the community that I find now about what is happening on this one property,” Wegmann said.
“What are we anxious about? We’re anxious about fires. That’s our biggest fear.”
Lake Dawn is nestled in a heavily forested valley near Olympic National Park and Heart O’ the Hills campground about five miles south of Port Angeles.
The tight-knit community of 41 full- or part-time households operates its own water system and has no fire department, Wegmann said.
“Our complaint to you today is not about community aesthetics,” Wegmann said.
“This is not a complaint about how any property looks, but what is happening on the property.”
Other speakers raised concerns about transients leaving needles and human waste on the property.
“It’s pretty dangerous,” said Frances Yuhl, who has family living at Lake Dawn.
“It is a sad sight to turn onto Lake Dawn Road and come up on that site.
“Please don’t let it go as bad as the metal dump out towards Sequim and all that had to happen there,” Yuhl added, referring to the Midway Metals scrapyard on U.S. Highway 101, where a long-awaited cleanup began in April.
“I think that there could be something (that could) happen a little quicker.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].