‘Clock Tower’ builders lose court appeal

2147 main st clock tower house 2018-01-09
"Clock Tower" house at 2147 Main Street as seen from the east. Photo: Discover Ferndale
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It has been several years since Artur (Art) and Margaret Rojsza began remodeling what was a two-story farmhouse at 2147 Main Street by lifting it several feet above its original foundation. According to the Washington State Court of Appeals decision, “In 2005, the Rojszas began remodeling their house without a permit. They have been continuously remodeling their house ever since, exceeding the scope of every permit that the City [of Ferndale] has issued.”

Rojszas are building contractors who typically work on government contract projects.

The farmhouse has, over the years, evolved into what locals and the builder refer to as “the clock tower.” In a footnote to their decision, the Court of Appeals said, “The scene is reminiscent of the famous Winchester house in California, which was under construction for nearly 40 years.”

There have been several cases argued in the courts involving the City and Rojsza, some related to the building and some not. In 2014, the City’s former insurance carrier settled 3 lawsuits in US District Court in Seattle that had been filed by Rojsza claiming harassment by City staff. Rojsza receive $130,000 from the insurance company for agreeing to drop the cases.

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In February 2015, the City and the Rojszas came to an agreement over what needed to be done and by when it would be done in order to complete the major remodel while staying in compliance with city and international building codes. Both the Rojszas and the City agreed to drop all pending lawsuits as part of this agreement.

It was in March 2017 when a Whatcom County Superior Court judge began imposing penalties after the court found the Rojszas in contempt by failing to meet the mutually agreed upon deadlines while allowing for multiple extensions of those deadlines.

The Court ordered penalties totaled $397,200 but then, during the same hearing, the Court suspended all but $25,000. The court also granted Rojszas another 90 days to comply while permitting the City to assess per-day fines of $500 for noncompliance after the 90 days or revoke the Rojszas’ building permit.

The Rojszas filed an appeal last April claiming the Whatcom County Superior Court judge erred in making their judgement and order against them. The Court of Appeals said their review of the Superior Court’s record uncovered no reason to reverse the Court’s order and the appeal was denied.

In the meantime, according to a Court of Appeals document,

On July 12, 2017, a court-appointed third-party inspector confirmed that the Rojszas had resolved all remaining issues with their house and satisfied the inspection. Accordingly, on July 26, 2017, the parties entered a stipulation and order purging contempt and all suspended penalties. The City confirmed full satisfaction of the judgment entered against the Rojszas with the parties entering into an agreement for monthly payments on the $25,000 penalties and a $10,805.30 attorney fee award.

The denied appeal and the acknowledgement from the City that the Rojszas had accomplished all items to be fixed or completed as required by the 2015 agreement and subsequent addendums leaves no other pending court cases between the two parties unless the Rojszas appeal the appellate court’s decision.

The Rojszas are still required to make payments to the City for the penalties and judgement totaling $35,805.30. In an announcement today regarding the appellate court’s decision, City staff said the Rojszas have an existing permit to complete the spire on their house.

 

 

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