County commissioners consider nuisance law

Clallam County commissioners are considering a nuisance ordinance to address situations in which the activities of one person or business adversely impact their neighbors.

While Clallam County has county codes, which are going through a number of revisions now, the county does not have an ordinance specifically addressing nuisances, Commissioner Bill Peach said during a discussion on Nov. 8.

Peach said that after researching laws in counties throughout Washington state, he found significant differences in how code compliance ordinances and nuisance ordinances are handled.

“When you look at the different types of ordinances, they fall into generally two categories,” he said. “One category is very prescriptive … It goes on and on about a description of behavior that is not acceptable. The second category focuses on process.

“I prefer the latter because you don’t have to constantly update your list of inappropriate activities, you can go through a process with the public,” Peach said as he recommended Spokane County’s law.

“Commissioners began a number of months ago talking about the possibility of creating a noise ordinance, and then we determined it would make sense to broaden that out a little bit and consider a more general nuisance ordinance that could be a little bit more utilitarian,” Commissioner Mark Ozias said last week.

Ozias outlined some of the types of complaints that have come to the county.

“We have heard from one county resident whose next-door neighbor does not have an electrical hookup to a utility and uses a gas generator that runs 24/7. She has played a recording of the noise for us to underscore how disruptive it is,” he said.

“Another resident has approached us about light pollution created by a neighbor, recently arrived, who placed spotlights throughout their property, which now serves to illuminate much of the valley each night and not just the property on which the lights are placed,” Ozias said.

Peach said that Spokane County’s ordinance specifies that four complaints in a 12-month period trigger an investigation by the sheriff’s office. Then there is an opportunity for the responsible party to voluntarily come into compliance, he said.

If that doesn’t occur, there is a notification process and then an abatement process which could involve the removal of the property owner from the premises if they do not participate.

“To ensure that the property owner is involved in the process and has their rights protected, I like the fact that there is a path to having a hearing examiner review the case providing the opportunity for the individual to legal defense,” Peach said.

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