Part one in a series on SSG Timm Gunderson’s battle with Thurston County.
Click here to read Part Two, “Thurston diverts $300,000 to save yet another illegal business that floods and pollutes.”
Click here to read part 3, “County Lied About Laws that Would Have Saved Disabled Vet’s Home from Flooding.”
That day in Baghdad
On December 31, 2003 in Baghdad, Staff Sergeant Timm Gunderson’s life changed in an instant.
An Iraqi suicide bomber pulled his vehicle within ten feet of Gunderson’s jeep. He detonated 1,000 lbs. of explosives.
SSG Gunderson took shrapnel to the back of his head and neck. He also suffered traumatic brain injury, and injuries to his right shoulder and arm.
He still suffers constant headaches and painful impingement in his neck and lower back.
Timm Gunderson was medically retired in 2012 after eleven years of service as a Staff Sergeant, with a 100% disability rating from the VA. He is now living on Social Security Disability because of his injuries.
He shares this on his facebook page:
In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.
A peaceful new life in Rainier
In July 2012, Timm Gunderson and his family settled into a comfortable farmhouse with a barn and outbuildings on five acres near Rainier. He was getting on with his life, in spite of the injuries that he will always endure.
They added raised beds to their carefully tended property in 2014.
Illegal luxury businesses cause disaster for neighborhood
Then this past winter, things began to go terribly wrong.
Gunderson and his neighbors were faced with being flooded out of their homes, because another neighbor was blocking a large culvert to divert storm water drainage off her property.
The neighbor, Sara Perkins DVM, had recently started two luxury horse businesses on her recently acquired property at 12440 Koeppen Road. Her parcel was prone to flooding.
Both of these luxury horse businesses were operating illegally, because neither of her businesses, Equine Medical Services and Waystation Farm, had ever gone through any county permit process at that location.
TCC 20.54.070(43)b prohibits Perkins’ two businesses, a veterinary clinic and a stable with non-medical boarding, from operating on the same parcel.
TCC 20.54.040(3)a says that a proposed land use, like each of Perkins’ businesses, can’t cause substantial or undue adverse effects to neighboring community, adjacent properties, or public health, safety, and welfare.
The Gunderson family home became surrounded by stagnant, polluted water that wouldn’t recede. Their septic system went under water and stopped working. They were afraid to drink their well water.
And in the dead of winter, the propane truck couldn’t get to their tank because it was surrounded by water. They had no other source of heat.
Below are their raised beds after storm water flow was blocked on Sara Perkins’ property –
While the Gunderson home was surrounded with water that was backed up from Perkins’ property, Sara Perkins posted facebook photos from her property, safely protected by the blockage –
Faced with homelessness, Gunderson turned to the county to enforce their own laws
Gunderson and his family were faced with homelessness, because their home was rapidly becoming uninhabitable. Their homeowners insurance didn’t cover this kind of flooding, and they couldn’t afford to pay both their mortgage and rent for another place.
Timm Gunderson says that he talked to Sara Perkins on the phone about the flooding. He says that she admitted that the flooding was caused by the blockage on her property, but she said that she needed to protect her horse businesses and keep them dry.
Gunderson first reported the flooding and the illegal horse businesses to the county in February. For months, he continued reporting it to county staff, including top management and County Manager Cliff Moore.
Commissioner Sandra Romero visited Timm Gunderson’s property and saw the devastation first hand.
That’s when things became surreal for Timm Gunderson and his family. Even with all their laws, everyone at the county, including County Manager Cliff Moore, kept insisting there was nothing they could do.
Ironically, both Romero and Moore had been strong proponents of the controversial new Title 26, which makes every code violation a misdemeanor, punishable by 90 days in jail.
SSG Gunderson contacted me on March 10. I immediately began communicating with County Manager Cliff Moore about the situation, and sending him evidence of the unpermitted operations.
Moore continued his same mantra with me, that there was nothing they could do about two illegal businesses that were causing neighbors to face homelessness.
The county has never denied that the flooding was caused by the blockage on Sara Perkins’ property. They did not suggest that the blockage was accidental.
The Gunderson property is still flooded with stagnant water, even though it’s summer now. Timm is afraid for what will happen next winter.
The county has taken no action. Both of Sara Perkins’ businesses continue to advertise their operations.
Waystation Farm shares online photos of the recent improvements to the arena and office of the horse boarding business. It also advertises an opening in the rehab program.
According to facebook posts, these new improvements have occurred since Timm Gunderson reported the flooding to the county.