PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend City Council has authorized its city manager to execute a settlement agreement with the estate of William Short, ending a civil dispute that has been ongoing for years.
The council passed the resolution on a majority vote last week with Deputy Mayor David Faber casting the lone dissenting vote.
City Manager John Mauro has been authorized to reach the agreement regarding properties located on Van Ness Street.
Short lived at 1158 Van Ness St. all of his life until he died in 2015. Since then, the home and two other properties were owned by the Ruth Short Loving Trust, named for Short’s mother, who died in 2014.
The city had been negotiating with Short prior to his death to clean up of his properties, specifically the parcel where his home was located.
The city closed its code enforcement file on the property when Short built a fence along what was believed to be the property line, shielding views of the yard in 2014.
However, the property line is not well established in city records.
After Short died, his sister, Penee D’Amico, was appointed as the executor of his estate. The city began to work with D’Amico in 2016 to clean up all three properties.
When the estate failed to meet mutually established deadlines, the city filed a lawsuit in March 2017, declaring both properties public nuisances. The city required a warrant of abatement with fines of more than $90,000.
The city also filed liens against the property in November 2017 that added up to $45,250.
Short’s estate has since cleaned two vacant properties and made significant progress on the home.
The estate now wants to sell one of the vacant properties and rent both the home and the property, but it needs the city to settle the ongoing lawsuit and lift a lien in order to move forward.
As part of the settlement, Short’s estate has agreed to pay the city $10,000 and pay for the survey to determine the property lines.
The city would maintain the lien on the other vacant property for another year.
Faber has previously expressed that he views the settlement as too lenient given the history between the city and the estate, and he believes the settlement would set a negative precedent that could encourage people to ignore city code.
City staff recommended the deal be settled as it ensures the city’s goal of following through with the code enforcement process when it comes to the cleanup of nuisance properties.
It also has the potential to add more property and building capacity to the city and bolster the rental stock, staff said.
Jefferson County Reporter Ken Park can be reached by email at [email protected].