The problems and legal case have been building for years at the 5-acre parcel on Crestview Drive owned by David Muresan.
The county’s slow, careful legal process is shown in documents that outline attempts by the county to bring Muresan into compliance with Island County code. In addition, changing county personnel and the pandemic slowed the process.
- 2014: A next-door neighbor contacted the health department, describing piles of debris, cans, bags, trailers, vehicles and a growing dump area on Muresan's property.
- 2016: Neighbors complained that Muresan was burning garbage, giving off black, foul-smelling smoke. Complaints continued through at least 2020.
- 2018: Several RVs, trailers and other portable structures were used as long-term residential dwellings by renters who typically pay in cash, according to the county’s legal documents.
- September 2018: The county sent Muresan a violation letter, telling him to remove the junk. Muresan answered that there were no violations. Code enforcement officer John Brazier told him to vacate occupants from the garage. Later that month, Muresan informed Brazier that he moved the tenants out and would clean the property. A month later, Muresan asked for a month's extension.
- Dec. 21, 2018: The county health department issued a sewage failure notice on Muresan’s septic system, which was meant only to serve the house but also served tenants in a converted garage. Muresan was ordered to end all illegal rentals within 90 days and get an annual septic system inspection. Muresan continued building.
- February and March 2019: The county building inspector issued two stop-work orders, posted on the property, warning that failure to stop is punishable by a fine and imprisonment. December’s 90-day order expired, yet Muresan was still constructing additions and renting units.
- April 2019: Muresan met with county officials to discuss the feasibility of building up to 54 tiny houses for the homeless on his property. Before the meeting, Muresan told the Stanwood Camano News that county action prompted his plan to build tiny houses for the homeless. The county health department gave him and his renters 90 days to move out of the garage or be fined $250 per day. “I had the idea at that moment and wrote the homeless initiative to build houses,” he said.
- June 2019: A neighbor formally complained of “a pungent smell” that they believed was the septic. Bob and Deb Christopher wrote, “we are smelling the effects of David’s failing septic system … from our own backyard.” They have since moved. The Health Department issued a violation notice for alterations to the drain field, ordering Muresan to get permits and make repairs.
- April 30, 2020: As the COVID-19 pandemic began, the county planning department issued a second enforcement order for Muresan to stop all illegal land use activities and issued a $1,000 penalty, explaining how it could be reduced. If he didn’t comply, he’d be fined $500 per day while in violation.
- May and June 2020: The county took actions that led to a public hearing before a hearing examiner, with Muresan’s appeals being denied at every step. The county focused on violations of unpermitted living quarters. The hearing examiner ordered Muresan to cease his illegal conduct and pay a $500 fine. He was ordered to notify his tenants to vacate within 21 days. Again, Muresan appealed and the examiner denied. Muresan continued at least into September 2021 to advertise rentals on Craigslist for rooms for $600 per month.
- Oct. 20, 2020: The county auditor recorded a lien on the property for $36,741 in unpaid fines, costs and accrued interest, which were then delinquent.
- June 2021: After the county departments exhausted attempts to get Muresan to comply, they turned it over to the county prosecutor. The department prepared the case for Superior Court.
- Dec. 23, 2021: Island County filed a lawsuit. Muresan was served Dec. 30.