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Judge gives North Bend OK to demolish vacant house
The old house sitting on skids at North Bend’s wastewater treatment plant is finally, and once again, slated for demolition.
Empty since 2010, the house was spared from two earlier dates with destruction, once by relocation, and once by court intervention. However, earlier this month, King Superior Court Judge Dean Lum reversed his 2012 granting of an injunction to stop the demolition, and North Bend officials immediately renewed their plans to destroy the house.
The house is the former Alpine Chiropractic office building, bought to make way for the 2011 extension of Downing Avenue to North Bend Way, and it has not aged well since it was vacated and moved to its present site, 432 Bendigo Boulevard.
“It’s been open to the weather because the roof isn’t secure,” North Bend City Administrator Londi Lindell said in a 2012 interview. Vandals had repeatedly broken into the building.
Following the April 2 ruling, city staff requested bids from eight vendors on the demolition, and received three by the April 15 North Bend City Council meeting. At the meeting, the council, minus an absent Councilman Alan Gothelf, voted unanimously to accept Imperial Demolition’s bid of $8,300.
Two years earlier, Aug. 7, 2012, the council had awarded a contract for the same demolition project, but it never got started. A potential buyer filed a lawsuit and petitioned the court for an injunction to stop the demolition, claiming that North Bend Mayor Ken Hearing had promised to sell the house, according to the city’s motion to dismiss the suit. An injunction was issued Sept. 4, 2012.
In his order, Judge Lum awarded North Bend summary judgement in the lawsuit, dissolved the preliminary injunction, and further ruled against the plaintiffs, Red Letter Ministries and its director Salli Beaumariage (formerly DeBoer), dismissing all their remaining claims with prejudice. The order also allows the city to recover its attorney fees from the plaintiff, fees which Lindell said exceeded $114,000, plus 12 percent annual interest. Beaumariage has since asked the court to reverse the legal fee ruling.
Beaumariage, a Snoqualmie business owner, declined to comment on the court’s action in person, but sent the following in an e-mail message signed by the RLM team: “We disagree with the judge’s decision. The city of North Bend admitted the verbal agreement on the house and parcel for homeless women with children existed and the city did not win summary judgment on the merits, but on a legal standing technicality.” The message ended with a citation of Proverbs 29:7.
The technicality, according to Lindell and the city attorney’s supporting brief in the ruling, is that the nonprofit Red Letter Ministries filed for dissolution on Dec. 30, 2011, and the document was filed with the Washington Secretary of State Jan. 12, 2012. Because the agency did not specify how its assets should be disposed of before dissolution, the city argued, Red Letter Ministries has no claim on the property now.
Further, the initial talks between Hearing, on behalf of the city, and Beaumariage, as DeBoer, specified a different agency, city minutes state. Prior to establishing Red Letter Ministries, DeBoer had been the director of the now-dissolved Network Services of Puget Sound. Network Services was the specified party in the agreement that the North Bend Council approved on Sept. 7, 2010, for the sale of “the Downing Avenue Extension Project house,” for $1, and for a $5, five-year lease of the city’s property for the home, “for the exclusive purpose of providing residential space for families in need of a home as a result of poverty, divorce, bankruptcy, and/or medical condition,” according to the meeting minutes.
“She entered the agreement as Network Services,” Lindell said.
By that time, though, the Washington Attorney General had issued a consent decree against DeBoer and Network Services, prohibiting them, individually and jointly, from soliciting charitable donations in the state without being registered to do so, among other conditions. A February 16, 2010, Attorney General press release said the decree, issued the same day, “does not include a finding or admission of wrongdoing. It resolves a complaint the Attorney General’s Office brought against the organization in December, 2008.”
The agreements for the sale of the house and the property lease were not signed by Beaumariage’s organization by the city’s deadline, and former City Administrator Duncan Wilson noted in the May 24, 2010, council meeting minutes that staff had tried several times to contact them to complete the paperwork, with no response. More than a year later, when the Aug. 7, 2012, meeting agenda indicated a contract for the house demolition would be awarded, several advocates of the organization asked the council to honor the contract, assuring them the home could be useable by October of that year.
When paperwork was ultimately returned, the organization had altered the terms of the contracts, which the city refused to honor. North Bend’s 2012 motion to dismiss the case states, “The contracts executed by Red Letter were not the versions long-before approved by the City Council, but... in Red Letter’s opinion, they were ‘substantially similar’ and had ‘no material differences.’”
The house was still in good shape when North Bend bought it in 2010, Lindell said, and, prior to talks with Network Services, the city offered to sell or give it to local organizations that might put it to good use, such as Habitat for Humanity, but none were interested in the building or its parts.
“We’d love for somebody to come take the house and be able to use it,” she said. “I just am fearful that because it sat there so long it might not be useable.”
She reported to the council after their vote on the contract that Imperial also did materials recycling, and might be able to recycle some of the house components.
Asked what Red Letter Ministries’ plans for the house were, Beaumariage responded, “the home is to be used for a faith-based transitional home for one family at a time in a restoration program.”
No timeframe has been established for the demolition work. The house can’t be torn down until a required asbestos survey, required by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, has been completed and a 10-day waiting period has passed.
Lindell said there is no asbestos in the house, which was established with the survey completed in 2012 before the planned demolition. Imperial Demolition will also be asked to coordinate with Nickels Bros., whose I-beams have been sitting under the house since the company helped move it in 2010.