Part two in a series on SSG Timm Gunderson’s battle with Thurston County.
Click here to read part one, “Disabled Vet Faces Homelessness because Thurston County Protects Illegal Businesses.”
Click here to read part 3, “County Lied About Laws that Would Have Saved Disabled Vet’s Home from Flooding.”
Click here to go to the facebook page, “Standing with SSG Gunderson.”
A Summary of the Background
SSG Timm Gunderson’s family has been faced with homelessness from polluted flooding since winter. A neighbor, Sara Perkins, had blocked drainage on her property, which has been prone to flooding.
The blockage kept Perkins’ two new luxury horse businesses dry, while her neighbors’ properties were severely flooded.
Neither of these luxury businesses operated legally. County law even prohibited both of these businesses, Equine Medical Services and Waystation Farm, from operating on the same parcel.
Before becoming permitted, a business in rural Thurston County needs to have a detailed stormwater drainage plan approved by a Hearing Examiner, showing how the business won’t harm neighbors.
SSG Gunderson’s house was surrounded by polluted water last winter –
County has two sets of rules, two kinds of justice
For months, Thurston County Commissioners and management refused to step in and enforce their own laws to shut down these illegal businesses that have wreaked havoc throughout their rural Rainier neighborhood.
Instead, the Commissioners suggested that Gunderson’s family seek homeless services–meanwhile allowing the two illegal businesses to continue to operate, and continue to flood out the neighborhood.
Four months after the businesses were reported, the county finally shut them down.
However, the county still won’t hold the business owner accountable for the damage caused by the blockage on her property. They won’t even make her remove the blockage.
This spring, County Manager Cliff Moore sent sarcastic and disturbing emails to Gunderson, who had continued to plead with the county to enforce their own laws to save his home.
Cliff Moore has recently taken a large pay increase to become Yakima’s new City Manager. His salary is reported to be between $165,000-$195,000.
SSG Gunderson has a 100% disability rating from the VA, after miraculously surviving a suicide bomber in Baghdad on New Years Eve 2003. He is currently living on Social Security Disability.
It has now been five months since Timm Gunderson first reported the damage and health risks caused by the two illegal businesses.
The county has still taken no action requiring the owner of the illegal businesses to fix her drainage.
New county manager Ramiro Chavez continues to insist that the county is powerless to enforce their own laws in this case, even though they enforce the same laws very harshly against others.
To read a detailed report of all these events, click here.
So why is this happening, in a county that is famous for strict and punitive enforcement of extreme regulations?
Why does the county fabricate phony rules to shut down some law abiding businesses, while turning a blind eye to lawbreaking, damage and pollution by other businesses?
In short, why are there two sets of rules? Two kinds of justice?
To understand that, you have to understand the County Commissioner’s vision for south Thurston County.
Commissioners’ Woodinville fantasy is south Thurston’s nightmare
For years, the County Commissioners and their top management have been transfixed with a singular vision for south Thurston County.
They have poured taxpayer money and endless staff hours into their vision, while cutting the budget for essential services like law enforcement.
Their vision is just a fantasy.
They envision that they can turn south Thurston County into an upscale tourist destination, like Woodinville.
Just northeast of Seattle and the wealthy eastside suburbs. Woodinville is a foodie and fashion paradise.
It’s chock full of wineries, gourmet restaurants, spas, fancy hotels, bed and breakfasts, art, concerts, shopping, gardens and golf. It’s a major destination for luxury weddings.
Our Commissioners and their staff think they can duplicate all that right here in south Thurston County.
Without having any of the unique characteristics that make Woodinville a success–a microclimate for vineyards, flagship businesses like the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery and Conde Nast resort Willow’s Lodge, and a close proximity to the Seattle metro area.
Still, the Commissioners have clung to their belief that if they can just keep out businesses and homes that don’t fit into their Woodinville fantasy, that it will somehow magically all fall together.
Commissioners settle for homegrown wannabes for their fantasy–legal or not
Real businesses that fit the Woodinville fantasy are simply not going to set up here, no matter how many taxpayer dollars are spent trying to lure them. There just isn’t the demand or location for them.
So the Commissioners have had to settle for homegrown wannabes. Even if they operate illegally.
If one of these homegrown wannabes fits into the Commissioners’ Woodinville fantasy, the county management has shown that they will turn a blind eye to whatever laws are broken, and whatever damage and pollution are caused.
The illegal luxury horse businesses that flooded out SSG Timm Gunderson’s neighborhood were part of the fantasy. Prancing purebreds, in a fancy setting, fit right in.
Wounded war heros like SSG Gunderson, who just want a quiet life on a small farm, are not part of their fantasy.
The county has been quite frustrated that Gunderson just doesn’t seem to get that.
Timm Gunderson’s thousands of supporters don’t get it, either.
The following account is just one example of how the county is willing to do anything to pursue their fantasy by helping one of their illegal homegrown wannabes, Tenino’s Monarch Sculpture Park.
The Commissioners even changed a law to benefit only Monarch Sculpture Park, while ignoring other laws that were broken by Monarch.
They pledged hundreds of thousands of dollars that were diverted from conservation projects, just to help Monarch. They plan to seek grants so they can spend more.
Monarch is on a five-acre swamp with unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation.
Monarch also floods and pollutes. Silver Creek runs right through the illegal business, right before it flows into the Deschutes River.
These frightening facts haven’t dampened the Commissioners’ bold ambitions for a Woodinville-style future for Monarch–restaurant, country inn, concerts, art gallery, gift shop, wine tastings, weddings, and housing for sixteen artists-in-residence.
This has all been planned, at taxpayer expense, for a five acre swamp that is dangerously close to the Deschutes River.