Friday, July 13, 2018

Killingsworth Property Controversy Heats Up

Eight neighbors recently signed their names to a concerned letter to City Hall regarding the unkempt property on Killingsworth Avenue, a property with abatement issues dating clear back to 2010.

The property in question the 815 Killingsworth Ave. and is occupied by Randy Mogstad. According to the letter issued June 11 his neighbors are upset by the clutter in the front yard, such as “three vehicles in the front yard that do not run… old bikes and junk.”

Creswell Mayor Dave Stram responded in a letter, stating, “I understand the appearance of the yard and the multiple vehicles parked there has been a disappointment to you for a number of years...The situation on Killingsworth is a continuing problem.”

Complaint documentation states that an old code abatement on this property was first completed in 2010 by previous Code Enforcement Officer Lissa Davis.

Since then, the property’s been subject to several other complaints from 2014 to present day, with many being filed by one of Mogstad’s neighbors, Ruby Miller.

City Code Enforcement Officer Shelley Humble said that in 2014, a lengthy conversation occurred between the City and the Mogstads to try and remedy the issue.

Then, the property became a subject of the 2016 Hope Restored Project, where volunteers helped clean up and restore the home over a two-day period, during which time medium-sized rocks were filled in the front and backyard to help prevent clutter.

Neighbors and concerned citizens, like Richard Heyman — who has also written columns in The Chronicle regarding this property — lamented that it didn’t take the property long after the restoration was completed in 2016 to become an eyesore again.

“The property was cleaned up two years ago, but didn’t take long until the rules were violated,” Heyman said during public comment at this week’s city council meeting. He said if there were to be a fire at the residence, firefighters would be hard-pressed to even get into the backyard or around the vehicles.

“I saw the property before Hope Restored; there is a common sense standard that is not being met here,” Councilor Martha McReynolds Jr. said.

With this ongoing issue, neighbors say it’s up to the City to enforce their codes, and that the City needs to place guidelines on how this property should be kept.

“The yard has to be cleaned up and either you give the owners a fine, or you ensure they clean up their yard,” the letter states. “If you choose to allow the owners to clean up their yard the code enforcement department needs to follow up to ensure the yard is dealt with.”

But Humble said at the council meeting that, “There was no violation that I could find the last several times I went there. At this point I don’t see any violations. It is a house that has three adults and four kids, lots of toys and recreation vehicles.”

Humble said that the Mogstads have several vehicles on their property, including sandrails, but they all run and are drivable. She noted that many bikes are not made with kickstands anymore, and that bikes are on the ground in the yard, but are operable. They also have several vehicles on the road, but the Mogstads move them in accordance to the ordinance.

“There’s no trash lying around; the garbage is in receptacles,” Humble said, noting that when she inspects a site, she’s also looking for safety issues, like attractive nuisances to kids like refrigerators or boxes — things they could climb on and get hurt.

“It’s a busy yard,” Humble said. “But anytime there’s an issue I go and it is cleaned up.”

Resident Kathy January, Creswell’s cat advocate, also said during public comment that she’s concerned for the cats on the Mogstad property, and has discussed this with the Mogstads before, advocating to spay and neuter their animals.

The letter goes on to say that Humble has given Mogstad instructions regarding the codes and addressed utility trailers sitting on the street in front of the residence.

“As soon as (Humble) leaves the utility trailer is parked back on the street,” the letter states.

Stram stated that Humble has been actively involved with the family and, “Has paid many visits to the home. With each visit, the residents cooperate and address the concerns brought to their attention. Soon after, the situation returns to its former state.”

Humble said that this particular property is garnering much attention, but there are lots more like it in town that are in even worse shape.
“There are several houses around the same neighborhood that I would say are worse than this one,” Humble said. “We don't get to choose for everyone how they get to live; that's why we live in the USA.”

Humble said she can’t ask the Mogstads to adhere to a different code standard than the rest of the residents in town.

“It might be difficult to meet the expectations that the community sets,” McReynolds said. “But it concerns me that we have a cycle where this is continued, where someone complains and someone is brought into the same situation.”

The City feels like it is at a loss of what to do, and council stressed that they can’t keep dumping city resources into this one property, as Humble only works 10 hours a week as the City’s code enforcement officer. She also serves as the Hobby Field airport manager.

“We need to find a way to get this issue resolved,” Humble said. “There’s polarization between the two parties with the habitual complaining.”

City Administrator Michelle Amberg said that the City has had other neighbors with similar issues in the past and mediation between the two parties worked.

“I think mediation will work; you can’t keep screaming the sky is falling when its not and utilizing the city resources,” Humble said. “We’re in a fine line right now. That’s our next try, to see if (mediation) would work (between Ruby Miller and Randy Mogstad.)”

Municipal Judge R. Scott Palmer “would do the mediation, having them sign an agreement,” Amberg said, noting that at first, the mediation can be a little rocky, but in the end it makes for better neighbors.

“Why wasn't this mediation started years ago?” Councilor Amy Knudsen asked, noting that these complaints have been coming in for years. Amberg said that there wasn’t a system in place until the code enforcement policy at the time, and that the most recent code enforcement policy lays out how mediation works.

“We have spent a great deal of staff time and money to deal on this one house, so let’s see if we can seek a resolution with (mediation),” Council President Richard Zettervall said. “It's bad enough that our society is becoming polarized over this… it’s really challenging to see neighbors being polarized.”

Printed with the permission of Scott Olson and Erin Tierney of the Creswell Chronicle.  Thank you for this permission.  

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