Chapter 13.30


13.30.010    Purpose and findings.

13.30.020    Definitions.

13.30.030    Duties of the administrator.

13.30.040    Unfit or improperly maintained structures or premises.

13.30.050    Complaint.

13.30.060    Voluntary correction.

13.30.070    Hearings before the hearing examiner.

13.30.080    Enforcement.

13.30.090    Costs.

13.30.100    Permit required.

13.30.110    Penalties.

13.30.120    Emergencies.

13.30.010 Purpose and findings.

The town council of the town of La Conner finds that unkempt, unsafe, unsanitary and otherwise improperly maintained premises and structures, sidewalks and easements within the town, in addition to the obvious hazards which these conditions pose to the public health, safety and welfare, adversely affect the value, utility and habitability of property within the town as a whole and specifically cause substantial damage to adjoining and nearby property. A property which is inadequately maintained may substantially reduce the value of adjoining property. If there are a number of properties that are unkempt, unsightly and dangerous, the habitability and economic well-being of the town as a whole are materially and adversely affected. This chapter conveys to the town administration, in accord with the procedures set out below, all necessary and proper powers to remedy unfit, improperly maintained or substandard structures or premises as they are described or found to exist and to charge the costs of such action to those responsible, and against the properties themselves. This chapter is an exercise of the town’s police power, and it shall be liberally construed to effectuate this purpose. Nothing herein is intended to limit or establish a condition precedent on the town’s exercise of its authority to proceed with an action under Chapter 35.80A RCW or similar statute allowing for the condemnation of blighted property. [Ord. 1208 § 1, 2022.]

13.30.020 Definitions.

Unless specifically defined below or unless context clearly requires a different meaning, terms used in this chapter have the meaning given them by the currently adopted edition of the International Building Code, and/or the Uniform Code for the Abatement of Dangerous Buildings. Gender and number are interchangeable.

(1) “Abandoned” refers to any property, real or personal, which is unattended and either open or unsecured so that admittance may be gained without damaging any portion of the property, or which evidences indicia that no person is presently in possession, e.g., disconnected utilities, accumulated debris, uncleanliness, disrepair and, in the case of chattels, location. Length of time or any particular state of mind of the owner or person entitled to possession is not conclusive in determining that property is abandoned.

(2) “Administrator” means the La Conner town administrator.

(3) “Boarded-up structure” means any structure having exterior openings which are closed by extrinsic devices or materials designed or calculated to be in place indefinitely, giving to the structure the appearance of nonoccupancy or nonuse for an indefinite period of time.

(4) “Dangerous building” means any building or structure which has any or all of the conditions or defects described in Section 302 of the Uniform Code for the Abatement of Dangerous Buildings.

(5) “Hearing examiner” means the La Conner hearing examiner selected in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 15.12 LCMC.

(6) “Nuisance,” for purposes of this chapter, shall have the same meaning as set forth in LCMC 7.10.010.

(7) “Owner” means any person having ownership interest in the real estate in question as shown upon the records of the Skagit County auditor, or who establishes an ownership interest before the administrator or code enforcement officer. For purposes of giving notice, the term “owner” also includes any person in physical possession.

(8) “Person” means natural person, joint venture, joint stock company, partnership, association, club, company, corporation, business trust, organization, or the manager, lessee, agent, servant, officer or employee of any of them.

(9) “Structure” means any building, dwelling, mobile home, factory-built house, or other structure or part thereof, built for the support, shelter, enclosure or convenience of persons, animals, chattels or property of any kind.

(10) “Structural defects” means:

(a) Vertical members list, lean or buckle to the extent that a plumb line passing through the center of gravity falls outside the middle third of its base; or

(b) Thirty-three percent of the supporting members show damage or deterioration; or

(c) Any other deficiency that constitutes a dangerous condition as defined by Section 302 of the Uniform Code for the Abatement of Dangerous Buildings.

(11) “Uniform Code for the Abatement of Dangerous Buildings” means that certain document published by the International Conference of Building Officials, 1997 Edition, on file in the office of the town clerk.

(12) “Vacant” when referring to a building means a commercial structure that is not actively and commercially in use for more than six months, an industrial or warehouse structure that is not actively in use for more than one year and residential property that is not actively in use as a residence for more than four months. “Vacant” when referring to real property with no commercial, industrial or residential structure refers to property that is not maintained, weed infested, overgrown, littered, or otherwise not maintained as are surrounding properties.

(13) “Value of structure” is the most recently determined value of a structure as specified in the Skagit County assessor’s records. [Ord. 1210 § 1, 2022; Ord. 1208 § 1, 2022.]

13.30.030 Duties of the administrator.

For the purposes of this chapter, the powers and duties of the administrator include:

(1) Investigation of all structures and premises which the administrator has reasonable grounds to believe may be unfit, improperly maintained or substandard;

(2) Preparation, service and posting of complaints against structures or premises believed to be in violation;

(3) Representing the town in any hearing before the hearing examiner; and

(4) Doing all things necessary and proper to carry out and enforce this chapter. [Ord. 1208 § 1, 2022.]

13.30.040 Unfit or improperly maintained structures or premises.

(1) The administrator shall conduct a preliminary investigation of any dwelling, building, structure, or premises upon forming a reasonable belief that the dwelling, building, structure, or premises is unfit for human habitation, improperly maintained, dangerous, or substandard.

(2) The administrator shall apply the Uniform Code for the Abatement of Dangerous Buildings in order to reach a judgment that a dwelling, building, structure, or premises is unfit for human habitation, improperly maintained, dangerous, or substandard, and shall consider whether any of the following conditions exist:

(a) Structural defects;

(b) Disrepair or dilapidation;

(c) Defects or conditions increasing the hazards of fire, accidents or other calamities, such as building components standing or attached in such manner as to be likely to fall and cause damage or injury;

(d) Inadequate drainage;

(e) Inadequate ventilation, light, or sanitary facilities;

(f) Nuisances as defined in Chapter 7.10 LCMC;

(g) Uncleanliness or overcrowding; or

(h) Rodent or other pest infestation.

(3) If the administrator forms a reasonable belief after conducting a preliminary investigation that any dwelling, building, or structure is a dangerous building, then the administrator may order the building or structure immediately vacated and secured as completely as possible pending demolition. The administrator may further determine that the building or structure should be demolished and the land suitably cleared and/or safeguarded.

(4) If the administrator forms a reasonable belief after conducting a preliminary investigation that any dwelling, building, or structure is unfit for human habitation, improperly maintained, or substandard and further determines that the cost of restoration exceeds 60 percent of the value of the building; or if the building has been damaged by fire or other calamity, the cost of restoration exceeds 30 percent of the value of the building and it has remained vacant for six months or more (value shall be determined by reference to a current edition of “Building Valuation Data” published by the International Conference of Building Officials or, if not published, as determined by the director; cost of restoration is the actual estimated cost, which may be determined in the same manner as “value”), then the administrator may further determine that the building or structure should be demolished and the land suitably cleared and/or safeguarded. [Ord. 1208 § 1, 2022.]

13.30.050 Complaint.

If, after a preliminary investigation of any building or premises, the administrator finds that it is unfit, substandard, dangerous, or a nuisance, the administrator shall cause to be served a complaint stating in what respects such dwelling, building, structure, or premises is deficient. The complaint shall be served either personally or by certified mail, with return receipt requested, upon all persons having any interest in the building or premises, as shown upon the records of the Skagit County auditor, and shall be posted in a conspicuous place on such property. If the whereabouts of any of such persons is unknown and the same cannot be ascertained by the administrator in the exercise of reasonable diligence, and the administrator makes an affidavit to that effect, then the serving of such complaint or order upon such persons may be made either by personal service or by mailing a copy of the complaint and order by certified mail, postage prepaid, return receipt requested, to each such person at the address of the building involved in the proceedings, and mailing a copy of the complaint and order by first-class mail to any address of each such person in the records of the Skagit County assessor. Such complaint shall contain a notice that a hearing will be held before the hearing examiner, at a place therein fixed, not less than 10 days nor more than 30 days after the serving of the complaint; and that all parties in interest shall be given the right to file an answer to the complaint, to appear in person, or otherwise, and to give testimony at the time and place in the complaint. A copy of such complaint shall also be filed with the Skagit County auditor, and such filing of the complaint or order shall have the same force and effect as a lis pendens notice as provided by law. [Ord. 1208 § 1, 2022.]

13.30.060 Voluntary correction.

(1) The administrator may secure voluntary correction by agreement with the owner. The voluntary correction agreement is a contract between the town and the owner in which such person agrees to abate the violation within a specified time and according to specified conditions. The voluntary agreement must include:

(a) The name and address of the owner or person bound under the contract;

(b) The street address and a legal description sufficient to identify the premises;

(c) A description of the violation and a reference to the provisions of this code or other regulation that has been violated;

(d) The corrective action to be taken, and a date and time by which the corrective action must be completed;

(e) An agreement by the owner that the town of La Conner may abate the violation and recover its costs and expenses pursuant to this chapter if all terms of the voluntary agreement are not met;

(f) A waiver by the owner of the owner’s right to any administrative or legal review of the violations, the appropriate corrections, and all other rights except those in the agreement;

(g) The administrative costs to be paid and by whom;

(h) Permission by the owner for the town to enter upon the property at any time or, in the case of occupied property, at reasonable times until the violation is abated; and

(i) An acknowledgment.

(2) The administrator may grant an extension for corrections or modifications if the owner has been diligent and made substantial progress but has been unavoidably delayed. [Ord. 1208 § 1, 2022.]

13.30.070 Hearings before the hearing examiner.

(1) Unless, prior to the time fixed for hearing in the complaint issued by the administrator, arrangements satisfactory to the administrator for the repair, demolition, vacation or reoccupancy of the building or premises are made, including the proper application for permits, or abatement of the nuisance, the hearing examiner shall hold a hearing for the purpose of determining whether the administrator’s determination shall be upheld, and the immediate disposition of the building or premises. The hearing will be canceled if the administrator approves the completed corrective action at least 48 hours before the scheduled hearing.

(2) The hearing examiner shall conduct a hearing pursuant to the examiner’s adopted rules. The rules of evidence prevailing in courts of law or equity shall not be controlling in hearings before the hearing examiner. The administrator or his or her designee and the owner may participate as parties in the hearing and each party may call and cross-examine witnesses. Any complainant or person affected by the violation may appear and present evidence. The town shall have the burden of demonstrating by a preponderance of evidence that a violation has occurred and that the required corrective action is reasonable. The preliminary determination of the administrator shall be accorded substantial weight. If the owner fails to appear at the scheduled hearing, the hearing examiner will enter an order finding that the violation occurred and assess the appropriate costs.

(3) The hearing examiner shall issue an order to the owner that contains the following information:

(a) The decision regarding the alleged violation including findings of fact and conclusions based thereon;

(b) The required corrective action, if any;

(c) The date and time by which the correction must be completed;

(d) The costs assessed;

(e) The date and time after which the town may proceed with abatement of the unlawful condition if the required correction is not completed;

(f) The decision shall state that the owner has the right to appeal the hearing examiner’s decision to the Skagit County superior court within 30 days of the date of the decision, and unless the owner does appeal or comply with the order, the town shall have the power, without further notice or proceedings, to vacate and secure the building or premises and do any act required of the owner in the order of the hearing examiner, and to charge any expenses incurred thereby to the owner and assess them against the property.

(4) The administrator shall mail, by certified mail, a copy of the decision to the owner or occupant within 10 working days following the hearing.

(5) If no appeal is filed, a copy of such order shall be filed with the auditor of Skagit County and shall be a final order.

(6) Any person affected by an order issued by the hearing examiner pursuant to this section may, within 30 days after the posting and service of the order, petition to the superior court for an injunction restraining the town from carrying out the provisions of the order. In all such proceedings the court is authorized to affirm, reverse, or modify the order and such trial shall be heard de novo.

(7) Nothing in this section shall abrogate or impair the powers of the courts or of the town to enforce any provisions of its ordinances or regulations, nor to prevent or punish violations thereof; and the powers conferred by this chapter shall be in addition and supplemental to the powers conferred by any other law. [Ord. 1208 § 1, 2022.]

13.30.080 Enforcement.

(1) If any action ordered by the hearing examiner is not commenced or completed within the prescribed time, or if no time is prescribed within the time for appeal, the administrator may cause the building to be demolished and the premises to be suitably filled and cleared as provided herein. If satisfactory progress has been made and sufficient evidence is presented that the work will be completed within a reasonable time, the administrator or the examiner may extend the time for completion of the work.

(2) If the owner or party in interest, following exhaustion of his or her rights to appeal, fails to comply with the final order to repair, alter, improve, vacate, close, remove, or demolish the dwelling, building, structure, or premises, the administrator may direct or cause such dwelling, building, structure, or premises to be repaired, altered, improved, vacated, and closed, removed, or demolished. [Ord. 1208 § 1, 2022.]

13.30.090 Costs.

(1) That the amount of the cost of such repairs, alterations or improvements; or vacating and closing; or removal or demolition by the board or officer shall be assessed against the real property upon which such cost was incurred unless such amount is previously paid. For purposes of this subsection, the cost of vacating and closing shall include (a) the amount of relocation assistance payments that a property owner has not repaid to a municipality or other local government entity that has advanced relocation assistance payments to tenants under RCW 59.18.085 and (b) all penalties and interest that accrue as a result of the failure of the property owner to timely repay the amount of these relocation assistance payments under RCW 59.18.085. Upon certification to him or her by the finance director of the town, of the assessment amount being due and owing, the county treasurer shall enter the amount of such assessment upon the tax rolls against the property for the current year and the same shall become a part of the general taxes for that year to be collected at the same time and with interest at such rates and in such manner as provided for in RCW 84.56.020 for delinquent taxes, and when collected to be deposited to the credit of the general fund of the municipality. If the dwelling, building, structure, or premises is removed or demolished by the administrator or hearing examiner, the administrator or hearing examiner shall, if possible, sell the materials of such dwelling, building, structure, or premises in accordance with procedures set forth hereinbelow, and shall credit the proceeds of such sale against the cost of the removal or demolition and if there be any balance remaining, it shall be paid to the parties entitled thereto, as determined by the board or officer, after deducting the costs incident thereto.

The assessment shall constitute a lien against the property which shall be of equal rank with state, county and municipal taxes.

(a) Bids for demolition shall be let only to a licensed contractor. The contract documents shall provide that the value of the materials and other salvage of the property shall be credited against the costs of the demolition. The contract documents may require bidders to estimate the salvage value of the property and, by claiming the salvage, reduce the amount of the bid accordingly. The contract price fixed by acceptance of such a bid shall not be adjusted to reflect the actual salvage value. Such bids may be let prior to the time for compliance or appeal, but shall not be binding or accepted until the order for demolition is final. The administrator shall have the authority to sign the contract on behalf of the town.

(b) There shall be charged against the owner and assessed against the property of any boarded-up building an annual inspection fee of $250.00. Such fee shall be payable at the time the building becomes a boarded-up building. The administrator shall order a refund of the proportional amount not due if the building is reoccupied or demolished. Subsequent annual fees shall be payable on or before the time the preceding annual fee has been exhausted.

(2) Additional fees will be assessed in accord with the provisions of this section.

(a) In addition to actual abatement costs, the following administrative fees shall be assessed and collected in the same manner:

(i) Where abatement is accomplished prior to hearing examiner hearing:

Nuisance, $100.00;

Substandard building, $200.00;

Unfit building, $300.00.

Provided, the administrator may waive these fees for a first offense if abatement is complete 48 hours prior to a hearing examiner hearing; provided further, that where abatement is accomplished by voluntary agreement, the administrator shall charge at least $50.00 per month per acre or fractions thereof.

(ii) Where abatement is accomplished subsequent to or less than 48 hours prior to a hearing examiner hearing:

Nuisance, $500.00;

Substandard building, $1,000;

Unfit building, $1,500.

(iii) Where abatement is accomplished following breach of an agreement or understanding between a property owner and administrator or hearing examiner:

Nuisance, $1,000;

Substandard building, $2,000;

Unfit building, $3,000.

(iv) Where the abatement is accomplished by the town following hearing or default of the property owner:

Nuisance, $1,000;

Substandard building, $2,000;

Unfit building, $3,000.

(b) For repeat violations, costs shall be doubled. [Ord. 1208 § 1, 2022.]

13.30.100 Permit required.

Any work, including construction, repairs or alterations under this chapter to rehabilitate any building or structure, may require a permit in accord with the provisions of Chapter 13.05 LCMC. [Ord. 1208 § 1, 2022.]

13.30.110 Penalties.

It shall be unlawful and a violation of this chapter to knowingly:

(1) Occupy or suffer to be occupied any building or premises ordered vacated;

(2) Fail to comply with any order issued pursuant to this chapter; or

(3) Obstruct any officer or agent of the town of La Conner or other governmental unit in the enforcement of this chapter.

Violation of this chapter is a gross misdemeanor. [Ord. 1208 § 1, 2022.]

13.30.120 Emergencies.

The provisions of this chapter shall not prevent the administrator or any other officer of the town of La Conner or other governmental unit from taking any other action, summary or otherwise, necessary to eliminate or minimize an imminent danger to the health or safety of any person or property. [Ord. 1208 § 1, 2022.]