Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ich Bin Ein Kay Kohler

One of the common threads in the environmental-ish world is that rules apply only to the non-environmental-ish segment of society. We've seen this at work with the Friends, who have long criticized guesthouses for everyone else, but seem to like them personally. Former Friends Board member, Vivian Burnet, had an illegal guesthouse. Former Friends President, Lynn Bahrych, who started off the whole guesthouse fiasco by filing a guesthouse lawsuit in 1999, had a guesthouse. Friends attorney, Kyle Loring, has a guesthouse. Former Friends President, George Lawson, has a guesthouse ... and there are probably others.

Another common thread in the environmental-ish world is to distort the meaning of "grassroots" and "local." Nowhere is this more apparent than in the oxymoronic title of the organization "ICLEI" ... which stands for the "International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives" with their motto of "Local Action Moves the World."  Think about that for a moment ... how can there be an "international" council about "local" initiatives? In the case of ICLEI, the global organization provides a blueprint for local communities to follow ... so that each community fits into ICLEI's overall design in jigsaw-puzzle like fashion. ICLEI isn't a local movement any more than McDonalds is a local diner. However, when we see the golden arches in Lubbock, Texas, or Paris, France, we understand we're seeing corporate McDonalds, not our hometown diner. But, we have not yet trained our eye to recognize that when we see the same environmental-ish battles cropping up in Plumas County, Marin County, Bainbridge Island, or San Juan County, we are seeing the corporate environmental-ish agenda at work, not a local one.

One of our local San Juan County citizens, Kay Kohler, has run into a spot of trouble on her family homestead that she inherited in Snohomish County ... and her situation has lessons for us in San Juan County because, incredibly, it is not an isolated case. In fact, Kay's situation is remarkably similar to the way Rachel Dietzman and our Prosecuting Attorney treated Lopezian Nicholas Padvorac during the Fisherman Bay Road Improvement Project.  We will explain that situation in a later post, but the message we want to convey is that you should pay close attention to the way the County interacts with its citizens on Public Works projects ... because this could happen to you. It's part of a developing pattern involving critical areas (in this case, wetlands, but it could just as easily be shorelines or something else), Public Works, stormwater (think Eastsound mosquito hatchery), contractual fine-print, and the legal power of bureaucratic whim.

The five acres that Kay Kohler owns in Snohomish County was bought by Kay's grandfather in 1936. Kay has old photos of the place dating back to that time, showing what it looked like then. When Snohomish County started developing rapidly, the Kohler clan did not sell the farm, which is located just north of Lynwood.  They held onto it, and houses sprang up on all sides. In 2007, the County wanted to purchase a portion of Kay's property for a road improvement (stormwater) project, and in 2009, after three separate appraisals, Kay agreed to sell one acre of her property to the County for $404,000. At the time, it seemed like a pretty straightforward deal, and neither Kay nor her (now former) attorney noticed that the fine print of the contract said that the County could change the valuation of her property after the fact through "condemnation" or "some other" method. 

In November 2011 ... two years after the sale ... the County hired an "expert" to re-value Kay's land.  The new expert valued the 2009 land transaction at just $48,750 because, the expert claimed, Kay's land was covered by wetlands and was hardly worth anything because it was un-developable. Snohomish County then condemned Kay's land for $48,750 and demanded that Kay hand back $355,250. Then, the County began court proceedings to get its money back.

Notwithstanding that Kay has photos stretching back over 70 years showing her land as not being wetlands ... notwithstanding that the County, as development proceeded apace in the 80's and 90's, configured their stormwater system to dump millions of gallons of stormwater on Kay's property without  her consent ... notwithstanding that Snohomish County has an NPDES permit that prohibits stormwater discharges that bypass their system ... all that notwithstanding, Kay's legal case was bungled and she lost both her court case and her appeal.  Snohomish County is now threatening to freeze Kay's bank accounts in order to get back its $355,250.

Ironically, after declaring Kay's stormwater-flooded property to be "waters of the United States" (i.e., a wetland), Snohomish County then failed to get the required permits from the Corps of Engineers (Section 404 Permit) and the Department of Ecology/EPA (Section 401 Permit) that are necessary for construction projects occurring in wetlands. Is it a wetland only when the County wants to get it for a cheap price, but not a wetland when the County wants to avoid getting the federal and state permits needed to build on it?

And so it goes ... rules only work one way in Snohomish County ... just like they do in San Juan County ... (ethics too, and an upcoming post will examine the controversy currently being manufactured by David Dehlendorf and Kyle Loring about our Planning Commission).

Note: ICLEI has recently changed its name to Local Governments for Sustainability even though it continues to use its original acronym of "ICLEI."


  1. What they done unto her they can do unto you ...

    Many know and love dear Ms K. there is an army of support for her, in part because she has done so much, selflessly for others and our community.

    Mr. Dork, not so much, he needs to work out his issues. He doesn't have any real friends either. Just McFriends ...

  2. It's not just $355K because I believe they are demanding the $355K plus 12% interest.

  3. None of this should be a suprise. Our system is corrupt. Corrupt people seek positions of power. Then they use those positions to surround themselves with like minded people. Its now a complete system, courts,bureaucracts,officials of all kinds. Not all of them are corrupt but many are, at every level. Its best to stay away from the system, if it goes bad there is nothing you can do about it. They run the whole system, you can't win.

  4. Nuts to that! This crapola is as old as Sheriff John and Sherwood Forest. What's the point of reading this blog with a defeatist attitude? I'm here to gather intelligence, and charge up the hill! You don't win the fight for freedom by waving a white flag! They won't get away with this!

  5. So what's the deal and is there anything that we can do? Make noise? Anyone know anyone in Snohomish County? I really need a lot more plain English info about this to get my head around it. I know that's what these legal bastards do, turn logic, reason and fair dealing into white noise. But Kay is golden and she lives here. That matters to me ...

  6. Looks kinda over already. Kay lost on appeal.

    Tired of getting screwed and not enjoying it? Vote to get rid of Randy Gaylord.

    In politic view, it is amazing our PA thinks patronizing the small number of FOSJ members remaining will carry him to victory, as in the past, along with the very tired SJI machine who failed to have a candidate win even with $28K on the table.

    You want a person this dumb? I don't.

  7. At every election, make this commitment:

    Look at the candidates involved and vote out anyone who has already served 2 terms. Everyone should get their chance to serve their terms, but after that, move on.

    No more of these 8,10,20 year career office holders. If you can't get the needed work done in that time you need to move on.

    That is the only hope we have to make change happen.

  8. When your land is taken from you for road improvement projects, state law requires that you be paid an initial sum of money before the county can use your land -- a possession and use agreement is signed by both parties at that time. If your land is valued at $25,000 or more before this process begins, three separate people must perform an appraisal to determine how much money you'll be paid right out of the gate. After that occurs, you and the county then must negotiate a final settlement at a later date. If the final settlement comes in lower than the amount paid per the possession and use agreement you signed, you are required to repay the difference. If the final settlement is higher than what the county initially paid you, the county would pay you the difference. In this case, the county and Ms. Kohler never reached a final settlement on the selling price of her land. When that occurs, condemnation proceedings occur where a judge decides what the value of your land will truly be. The property is re-appraised based on two factors -- what the price of the land was before and after the taking of the land. The judge sided with Snohomish County's appraisal of $110,000 before and $62,000 after the taking of her land. Ms. Kohler is then required to pay the difference back to the county or file an appeal. She filed an appeal in July of this year because she feels her property is worth $700,000.

    The fact that she was paid $404,000 means absolutely nothing because what really matters is the final settlement, which they never reached.

  9. In 2007, Kohler was contacted by Snohomish County, which wanted to use a portion of the property for road improvement projects along 52nd Avenue West. In 2009, the county offered to pay Kohler $404,000 for the southwest corner of her family's land - what an expert for the county determined was fair market value at the time.

    Kohler thought the price was too low, and decided to take her chances in court.

    The county commenced a condemnation proceeding that would end in a bench trial. At which time, a judge would determine just compensation and order final payment.

    In the meantime, the county entered into a possession and use agreement with Kohler so work on the road improvement project could begin. As part of the agreement, the county wrote a check for $404,000 to Kohler and her attorney at the time, Doug Purcell.

    "The payment is a good faith effort to show that we were willing to buy that property," said Steve Thomsen, director of the Snohomish County Public Works Department. "We buy a lot of property this way. It's never been a problem."

    According to the county, Purcell should have kept the money in a trust for his client until final payment was resolved. That way, taxpayer funds would be protected should a judge decide the land was worth less than it had been appraised for. If it were worth more, the county would issue Kohler a check for the difference

  10. @10:25 and @10:18

    So you wave hundreds of thousands of dollars at someone and actually GIVE them hundreds of thousands of dollars (in good faith, as you say), but you claim that means absolutely nothing. I'll tell you what that means -- it means Sno Co is absolutely scamming people. Good faith my ass. Here's a bunch of money, and I'll take it back when MY appraiser evaluates the property later -- wink wink nudge nudge -- know what I mean? -- say no more -- eh eh.

    Only a sallow hard-bitten lawyer with a bureaucratically infected mind could see the logic and fairness in that.

    It's a scam. It may be a legal scam because of error and bias, but it's still a scam.

    Nice to get your comments though. It just serves to confirm the righteous indignation and sense of entitlement carried by those who do the dirty work of abusing citizens in the name of the government, and by those who defend the abusers in government.

    It's people like @10:25 and @10:18 who run the government, and I can think of no better reason for not trusting the government than their comments.

    Put people like @10:25 and @10:18 out of work. They just cause pain and misery and feel self-satisfied for doing it. Smaller government is better.

  11. "We buy a lot of property this way." I'll bet you do. Who wouldn't. Let's review your "facts." The owner wants $700K. You give her $400K. Then you resort to legal means to get it for about $50K.

    Who wouldn't "buy a lot of property that way" if they could? Ripping people off can be very profitable.

    Holy cow! "We buy a lot of property this way." That's an insane admission. I gotta remember that one.

  12. Is Snohomish digging in a wetland or not? It seems like a pretty straightforward question. If they are, just ask the Sacketts about potential fines and penalties. The standard fine is $10K per day, but it can go up to $75K per DAY under certain circumstances. I hope someone takes Snohomish to court and does to them what the EPA did to the Sacketts.

  13. @10:43
    Seems to me that 10:18 & 10:25 were just filling in some details; the problem with many of the ranters on this blog is that you've made your mind up concerning a subject before obtaining all the facts - facts are just that, they're not judgments or positions. While this situation seems on the surface to be outrageous, obtaining all the facts will help clarify the situation.
    A healthy skepticism of government is good, however, perhaps you should stop whining about government and become a part of it, participate in it beyond voting - it's why the FOSJ and so many other leftist take control, they're involved, most of you are at home swilling PBR, watching dancing with the stars and bitching about the government while you cash in on Social Security, Welfare, Foodstamps, Midicare, Disability, Farm Subsidies, drive on roads built and maintained by oooo government...our government is suppose to be a partnership with the public, but too many of you have opted out and thus the leftists have fully opted in.

  14. I t is absurd a law that allows a government agency to demolish the value in land by destruction and use, without warranty toward at a minimum a deposit down pmt made against same. I see some serious damage claim.

  15. Take the land back and sue for damages at cost to return it to its original state

  16. Apparently that County did not want to get "under water" on a piece of property they bought at the height of the real estate bubble. That only happens to little people and taxpayers.

    Underwater eh? So, in order to devalue the property, the County constructs new reality by defining a wetland that never existed before but for illegal urban storm-water runoff. This manufactured wetland, once delineated becomes "waters of the United States" and thus covered by the federal hammer called the Clean Water Act, subject to citizen lawsuits of the kind often employed by the Center for Biological Diversity and other scabrous eco-vampire parasites sucking the life-blood of rural America.

    But I digress. What does this have to do with YOU? Who cares about far-off mainland Snohomish County?

    Just consider our lumpen Critical "Agenda" Ordinance. And the fact that the County utterly failed in their duty to perform an economic impact analysis of this ball and chain? It is getting pretty obvious why they and their Friends avoided that third rail while all the while claiming land values would actually rise.

    I don't think so. As soon as you have a manufactured wetland delineation either on your land or just nearby your land, your land value will plummet. Follow the money. Snohomish County buys land for $X. Snohomish County manufactures a wetland on said property and delineates it. Value crashes. County cashes in on the proceeds.

    This is very simple to understand. However, Snohomish County in their zeal, appears now to have shot themselves in the foot over the Clean Water Act because they are diverting urban stormwater (a pollutant) into a wetland (Waters of the United States)

    Oh, that is one big Bozo No-No. Who will get the last laugh on this one? I don't think this is over by a long shot. The earlier analysis here is helpful, but really missed the real situation coming down.

  17. values raise selectively, only for those who have constructed homes. vacant land becomes worthless

  18. re possession and use, can she sue for damages, she owns the property, right?

  19. to be "Paid" an initial sum of money, seems to imply something other tan a deposit. Paid is the past tense of having been owed. If the agreement doesnt specifically require that there may be a refund due, there isnt any way a reasonable person could presume that may be the case., particularly where the County has moved beyond a likewise past tense, destruction of that which has been "Paid" any person that thinks otherwise is also and has been also living the life of a "BULLY" this person or entity wants it both ways, bottom line is simple reasoning, YOU cant Have it that way. It is Unreasonable

  20. Sounds like part of this story is how this little lot got declared a wetland after the county purchased it.

    I guess there are elections coming up in Snohomish County pretty soon. Ballots gonna be mailed out middle of next week. Candidate forums. And what not.

    Maybe time to make an example. Ruin a property owner unfairly, let that come back around and ruin a politician who let it happen in turn, especially one running for re-election. Hey, its not like its personal or anything. Its just war, you understand.

    Anyone got any names?

  21. Spot on 7:07 10/11!

    Anyone up for digging into those politics and giving a heads up on who to send a check to?

    If nothing else, I think TH readers are united in their complete disdain for HYPOCRISY. (The practice of professing beliefs one does not hold to.)

    I wish there was a stronger word, but since we're stuck with this one and it is well known and well practiced here by the likes of Loring ESQ. and the check writers at FOSJ, we seem united in our attempt to condemn these righteous bastards and bitches (it is still Friday) for their continuous attacks on any and all island residents.

    Of particular interest to me over the last several months is FOSJ's complete toss of the AG community onto the burn pile.

    The agriculture community was one of the stalwarts of the FOSJ membership, now we can only hope these folks have a dictionary and can look up the word HYPOCRISY.

    Certainly we know many AG people see the FOSJ buffer initiative will make much of our food and economically productive lands now useless either economically or practically, pick one or both.

    Anyone in the AG community that continues to support FOSJ has got to be out of touch, likely working hard, so get the word out people, because you're no different than Kay Kohler or any of the rest of us.

  22. Who was the judge in the Kohler case? It makes no sense.

    It makes nooo sense.

  23. If I understand correctly, Snohomish County has a five member council. Several district positions are up for grabs in the upcoming elections.

    Apparently there are sensible candidates competing for seats, one of whom is not on council yet, and who has recently become aware of this issue and seems to think this is totally nuts and wrong. Another sitting council member who is retiring, has recently expressed surprise and dismay over this affair, because apparently the Snohomish County Council has sort been kept in the dark by their own departments. Sound familiar?

    So, there is a possibility for campaign messages about this issue that, if inserted strategically into this race, could significantly help to change the "tone" of the Snohomish County Council for the better.

    At the same time, this Story of Kay could be told in San Juan County and across the 40th District to put all candidates on notice that we might be voting for in 2014.

    Any takers? Don't get an opportunity like this very often. Barn door is open.

  24. The FOSJ is truly a deranged and evil bunch of zealots. If you have hours to spend, and the stomach for it, reading the FOSJ brief to the GMA will tell you what this group wants. Buffers around every possible wetland that can be up to 1600 feet deep, depending on conditions. No reasonable use exemption of any kind. No mitigation trade off. Building not permitted up to 1200 feet away from cliffs with falcon nests. On and on. A set of restrictions based upon a selective perusal of the maximum numbers that appear in any scientific literature. Basically, a blatant attempt to stop or severely curtail any new building, and even human use of existing land. Eco-extremism with in your face arrogance.

  25. Has the County considered any public speaking training for the planning department? If I have to sit through another hearing with one of these people droning on . . . . the newest one can be the worst to date.

  26. The approach changed. Now they are supposed to be dull and grey people, they have been carefully taught to hypnotize the public. This is called stakeholder engagement facilitation, the Padilla Bay method as it is becoming known.

    No more flash and dash Shirene Hale to outrage your sensibilities. Now, if you try to follow what they are up to, if you try and pay attention, the only thing that will happen is that you will be Bored. To. Death.

  27. And the planners, MRC, and CD all seem to be cut from the same mold - 50 year old ugly hags with little dutch-boy haircuts and superior haughty attitudes.