The safety of our neighborhoods and communities is the most important responsibility of local government. This is certainly an issue that is at the top of my priority list and has been a focus of my work on the Snohomish County Council. Chronic nuisance properties make neighborhoods unsafe and present health risks to our residents. We have taken steps over the past couple of years to address nuisance properties and improve community safety. In this month’s column, I will highlight this work and how you can help make our neighborhoods safer.
Since joining the County Council in 2017, I’ve had the opportunity to go on a series of ride-alongs with our nuisance properties team. This team is made up of the Sheriff’s Office of Neighborhoods deputies and embedded social workers, code enforcement officers, and Snohomish Health District personnel. They work collaboratively to identify chronic nuisance properties and address the issues affecting neighborhoods at these properties.
On the ride-alongs, I have seen first-hand the negative impacts that these properties are having on our communities. Often times, there are a combination of code enforcement infractions, drug crimes, and health code violations that make areas unsafe. An increase in crime rates surrounds these properties and human waste and garbage brings unhealthy conditions to the surrounding neighborhood including rodent infestations and infected ground water.
After discussions with the nuisance properties team, I introduced a chronic nuisance ordinance to incorporate into county code. This ordinance created a process to designate properties as “chronic nuisance properties” if they met certain criteria. These criteria list nuisance activities including (but not limited to) criminal mischief, drug-related offenses, possession of stolen property, disorderly conduct, and gang-related activity. If four or more nuisance activities have occurred during any 90-day period (or eight or more over a year), a property can be determined to be a chronic nuisance property.
Following a determination of chronic nuisance status, the team works with the property owner to achieve voluntary compliance to abate the issues. If voluntary abatement is not done, charges can be referred to the Prosecuting Attorney and compliance can be enforced following a decision by Superior Court.
The initial chronic nuisance ordinance was passed unanimously by the County Council in 2018. Since then, the nuisance properties team has worked with multiple property owners to get nuisance properties cleaned up and back into safe and healthy conditions. This month at the County Council, we will be considering an update to that code which would add warrant arrests and vehicle wrecking to the list of nuisance activities. This is based on feedback from the team and will help them to continue identifying properties and gaining compliance in these cases.
While there is still much work to be done on the issue of nuisance properties, I am proud of the work we have done over the past couple of years in Snohomish County to address these issues. I am thankful to all of the members of the nuisance properties team for their work and partnership on this topic.
If you live near or know of a nuisance property, I encourage you to contact Snohomish County Code Enforcement at 425-388-3650 or the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office at 425-407-3999.
Nate Nehring is a member of the Snohomish County Council and represents District 1 which includes Arlington, Darrington, Granite Falls, Marysville, Stanwood, and unincorporated north county. He can be reached by email at Nate.Nehring@snoco.org or by phone at 425-512-4810.