In February, the Thurston Commissioners approved a new ordinance, Title 26, by a vote of two to one. This ordinance, in the making since 2013, is intended to streamline enforcement of county codes, be more consistent in enforcement, and cause the County to be more effective in achieving compliance. According to the County’s website, “The most common enforcement issues related to land use violations include responding to neighbor concerns about junk vehicles, building without a permit, and diverting a stream or filling in a wetland.”
According to testimony given by those opposed to Title 26, they agree that the enforcement of County Code needs to be improved, but that the new ordinance may go too far. Rainier resident Michael Savoca’s view of the new ordinance is that “there are elements of Title 26 that make sense and there are elements that suggest overreach.” He believes that the County should rigorously address major violators, but that Title 26 may place undue hardship on low-income residents, and he impressed on the Commission that “there is a lot of poverty in the rural county.”
Glen Morgan of Rochester cited two concerns: “excessive civil penalties—exceedingly harsh for what it is intended to do”—and the potential for “the over-criminalization of minor code enforcement issues”. He also criticized county staff for making comments regarding the value of the ordinance as a “revenue tool” for Thurston County. “This should never be something we use as a motivating factor or even a consideration for this type of ordinance.”
Before Sandra Romero called for a vote she stated her support for Title 26. “I want to be able to have a county that my grandkids are going to proud to call home, and this is only one tool in a tool box to help people protect their own property rights from people that disregard their neighbors’ property”.