County lawsuit demands clean up of properties

When one-time county resident Mary Bolles returned to Whidbey Island two years ago, she found the condition of her property violated several county ordinances.

Those violations led to the county filing a lawsuit last month demanding that she clean up her property and pay nearly $100,000 in penalties levied against her.

After being away for 20 years, Bolles said came back to find abandoned cars and garbage dumped on her 20-acre property located off Van Dam Road.

“I don’t know where all this stuff came from,” Bolles said recently while she was repairing her fence. “All I left was cows.”

In addition to the trash and junk left on her property, she said several sheds were vandalized and she lost her water hookup.

The garbage and derelict cars led neighbors to complain about the property and the county eventually decided to take action. The county found that Bolles’ property violated county code and declared it a public nuisance.

Matt Kukuk, code enforcement officer, said that the multiple vehicles and parts scattered around the property violate the county’s “junk vehicle” ordinance.

As Bolles started work on cleaning her property, she lived in a trailer on the land. But that also violated the county code.

The code requires a working septic system and water hookup before someone can live in a trailer.

The county filed a lawsuit in Island County Superior Court in October asking for the property to be cleaned and to recover the $92,500 in civil penalties assessed against Bolles.

The case against Bolles dates back two years. The Planning Department originally contacted Bolles in October 2001, telling her to stop living out of a trailer, establish a permanent home with the proper permits and remove the cars and junk from her property.

In April 2002, the county issued a Supplemental Enforcement Order restating the initial order and imposing the $91,500 civil penalty.

Bolles said she’s been trying to clean up her property.

“I really had no knowledge of those cars,” Bolles said. “I didn’t give anybody permission.” The cars have been removed but some of the junk still remains.

Answering the lawsuit placed another burden on Bolles. Because she said she lives on a fixed income, she hasn’t been able to find a lawyer willing to take her case.

The Planning Department has done all it can. “At this point, it’s really out of my hands,” Kukuk said, explaining that it’s now up to the Prosecutor’s Office to resolve the situation.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Josh Choate is handling the case but could not be reached for comment this week.

Bolles said she isn’t living on the property at present. She’s staying with friends and family until the matter is resolved.

You can reach News-Times reporter Nathan Whalen at nwhalen@whidbeynewstimes

.com or 675-6611.

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