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  1. #1

    • Irrational Mr. Toad Fan
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    Need Help From WA MCers

    A local park across the street from my house has been sold illegally to developers and I need lots of help to get the word out and to the proper people. Here is a full recap on the matter...
    A Precedent Setting Tragedy is Being Set for Small Town Parks in WashingtonState?

    Van Eaton Park, an open space park in the town of
    Eatonville, Washington with a spectacular view of Mount Rainier, has recently been sold by the town to a developer for the purpose of building houses on the land. Van Eaton Park is a very environmentally sensitive area and deserves protection. A town does not have the statutory authority to sell a park. This is breach of the public trust. This happened after the town government, led by Mayor Bruce Rath, who had been a business partner of one of the developers, got the park declared surplus. Rath then brokered a deal to sell it. Many town residents spoke against this sale of Van Eaton Park along with a petition to save the park. The town completely ignored the residents and sold it anyway. This brings to light many important questions. How could this happen? How can a town act illegally without consequences? What message is this sending to other small towns in Washington? What are the environmental impacts? Will any town be able to sell a park any time the town government feels they need money?

    Van Eaton Park was located on land donated by TC Van Eaton, town founder, for the purpose of a park. Van Eaton Park was set aside as open space many decades ago because it has significantly steep slopes, is considered a hazardous landslide and erosion area, has multi layered soil, and underground springs with water seepage areas. It has served as a wild life corridor and provides habitat for deer and small animals. Eagles and hawks have also been seen feeding in the park. There was also a walking trail around the lower side of the park.


    In the past, this park was zoned community service. However, in 1994, the town planner, Mart Kask, recommended that the community service zone be eliminated allowing parks and schools as a permitted use in the underlying zone. The park then defaulted to the surrounding single family residential zone. In 2003 Harold Parnell the town mayor had a stroke and a town council member, Rath, was appointed as mayor for the remainder of the term. Unfortunately, this un-elected mayor was a developer and his agenda was to “streamline” the process for allowing development in the town. To this end, several projects were allowed to be developed with out environmental safeguards. Environmental laws and protections are only given lip service by the Town of Eatonville. The environmental impacts have been largely ignored.

    To raise money for the town coffers, the Mayor Rath decided to sell Van Eaton Park, arguing that since the land was “only” open space and it was not really a park due to its underlying single family zoning. Rath advocated it could therefore be declared surplus. The park was subsequently sold to a former business partner of Mayor Rath for homes. In WashingtonState, the laws governing a town differ significantly from laws governing a city. A town only has limited authority. What a town can do is specifically defined by the state. Selling a park is not one of them and to do so is outside the town’s authority. Community members fought this in court. They asked for an injunction to stop the sale. Pierce County Superior court Judge Armijo denied the request. Later Judge Armijo dismissed the case and ruled that since the park didn’t have playground equipment, it was not a park. His decision was appealed and Armijo was overturned. The appellate court ruled that Van Eaton Park was indeed a park. The ruling sent the case back to Armijo’s court to decide whether a town had the authority to sell the park. The town and developers then had to find a way to keep a trial from happening to avoid almost certain defeat in court. The lawyers for the developer filed for a dismissal on a technicality. This motion was brought before Judge Armijo, who quickly dismissed the case. An hour prior to the start of the hearing (3-16-2007), the developers had their machinery on site. Another appeal is still undecided because of the cost. This case may never make it to court.

    Throughout this process the Town of Eatonville has done everything they can to assist the developer. The town vacated the alley in the middle of the park which allowed the developer to reconfigure the lots to increase density. This also allowed the developers to circumvent some of the town’s own environmental regulations. Government oversight of the project is virtually non existent. The town acts like an agent for the developers and had waived most of the expected safeguards and mitigation. The human safety issues seem of little concern.

    So what does this mean for other towns in
    WashingtonState? Does this mean a town can sell a park illegally without consequences? Can a town the can circumvent environmental safeguards at will without penalty? This is clearly a breach of the public trust! Is this the type of precedent we want to set? If not, then we need to work together to challenge the corrupt town government to let them know that there are laws and they must obey them. The State of Washington does have final oversight of a town. We must strongly encourage the state to take action.




    Key Players:



    Town of Eatonville
    Eatonville, WA98328



    Mayor, Tom Smallwood
    [email protected]



    Former mayor and current council member,
    Bruce Rath



    Developers,
    DN properties LLC, this is a joint venture owned by

    Summit Properties


    10618 SE Kent Kangley Rd
    Kent, WA98030-9048
    (253) 852-6400



    Jerry Nybo Construction
    PO Box 1455
    Puyallup, WA98371
    (253) 435-1880




    WA State Auditor
    [email protected]

    WA State Attorney General
    A blog has been posted here. I would really really appreciate if you could send this out to anyone you know. Thanks so much!

  2. #2

    • Shablagoo!
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    Re: Need Help From WA MCers

    Hmm, that seems strange to me. it should be looked into by the attorney general.

  3. #3

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    Re: Need Help From WA MCers

    I agree, and thanks for the response Melonballer, but the Attorney General is not allowed to look into a Government entity (such as my town) unless the state directs them to.

    This is very frustrating, I plea with anyone who reads this to please let anyone know who might be able to help. Thanks!

  4. #4

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    Re: Need Help From WA MCers

    This is really sad! I would think that you should be able to go over the Mayor's head - but I don't have any advice. I hope you can stop it!

    Will trade husband for Disneyland and DCA Pins!

  5. #5

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    Re: Need Help From WA MCers

    We theoretically can, but since our town is "Incorporated" we can't go to the county level, which means we have to try to get the state to intervene, and unfortunately we've been basically ignored as being too small of a fish.

    It's not like the people they sold it to are very pleasant either. They've been using my neighbors driveway to back up their construction trucks and earlier today blocked her out when she had to leave, but since she was also blocking his entrance he got out of the truck, kicked dirt at her and called her something that starts with "B" and rhymes with "itch". These are just bad bad people and it's so demoralizing. Especially since any complaint to town hall falls on deaf ears.

  6. #6

    • Shablagoo!
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    Re: Need Help From WA MCers

    Have you forwarded the story to the media? They do know about all of this right? I know I did not hear about it until you posted about it. If there is one thing that gets politicians attention, its news coverage.

  7. #7

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    Re: Need Help From WA MCers

    I second Melon's thoughts - call one, no call ALL of the news stations and get them on this! It sounds like a great investigative story, the kind that "Disaster Jim" used to love to do before he became "that guy that is always in the "satelite" room" - he could do all of his dramatic pausing and make you think he needed a "dun dun duuun" soundtrack!

    Seriously though, I know all the stations seem to have some kind of a "newslinks" where they look for the public to alert them to stories that would be either newsworthy or of interest to the masses. This fits both of those areas I think.

    Good luck and keep us posted!

    Edit: interesting thing I found on KOMO's website - and this is from about 2 weeks ago... http://www.komotv.com/news/6388737.html seems that the town is really hoping for Extreme Makeover: Town Edition to come and make things all pretty and new. I wonder if ABC and the EM team would want to come to a town in the middle of a fight to save a local park? Makes contacting the media even more worthwhile, I think.
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  8. #8

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    Re: Need Help From WA MCers

    Thanks so much for all the responses guys. I have e-mailed our story to King 5, Kiro 7 and Komo 4. I suppose I could hit Kcpq as well, but so far I have heard no response.

    Tinkermonkey, that's an interesting article I had not read but there is a very telling quote in there...
    The problem is, Eatonville doesn’t have several million dollars sitting around to get it all done.
    Basically that's their justification for selling off the park.

    The whole thing is so frustrating, so if you guys know anyone who could conceivably help it would be much appreciated.

  9. #9

    • Shablagoo!
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    Re: Need Help From WA MCers

    On top of the tv media I would suggest a few local newspapers as well.

  10. #10

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    Re: Need Help From WA MCers

    I am SO in. I will do what I can do. This sickens me. Everyone with their lovely views are losing them to developers, not to mention that all of our parks and conservation areas are being bulldozed to build houses. I live in Seattle, so, I understand. The town I live in (just outside of Seattle) has had so much growth in the last 5 years, that it's disgusting.

  11. #11

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    Re: Need Help From WA MCers

    Who is that local reporter who looks into things??? Herb someone??? I'd try to reach someone like that. We have a friend who is the KOMO helicopter pilot...I am going to ask him who you can contact. In case he knows anyone.

  12. #12

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    Re: Need Help From WA MCers

    Thanks I Heart Disneyland! Anything you can do to help is much appreciated! It's disgusting how they are getting away with this.

  13. #13

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    Re: Need Help From WA MCers

    Quote Originally Posted by ecdlanddude View Post
    Thanks I Heart Disneyland! Anything you can do to help is much appreciated! It's disgusting how they are getting away with this.
    Agreed. I hate what they've done in my neighborhood....clearing all of the mature trees and putting new homes in there. People making money--plain and simple.

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