Bothell church faces county deadline over flagpole

BOTHELL — A church has until Tuesday to get Snohomish County building permits for a former cellphone tower on its property, or face a $1,500 fine.

Park Ridge Community Church had appealed a violation notice and fine that county code-enforcement o

fficers issued this past fall. The hearing examiner decided in the county’s favor March 17.

Park Ridge lead pastor Brad Sebranke said Friday he’s prepared to go along with the legal ruling and has no intention of cutting down the pole.

“My plans are ready,” Sebranke said. “I’m trying to get the thing permitted.”

The church has hung a star and a cross from the 90-foot pole, a former cellphone tower near the church property at Maltby Road and 35th Avenue SE. A neighbor’s complaint spurred the code investigation.

In its appeal, the church argued that it was being singled out to get a flag-pole permit, which isn’t normally required.

The county contended that a permit was necessary, in part, because the pole posed a potential danger if it falls over. Sebranke maintains that the pole is solid.

“The pole’s not falling over,” he said.

County code officials and a consultant and a lawyer for the church argued their respective sides March 9 in front of hearing examiner Millie Judge.

“The violation still exists and must be cured,” she wrote in her decision.

In her conclusions, Judge agreed with county officials that the pole qualifies as a structure and requires a building permit. Whether it is used to display flags or religious symbols is irrelevant, she wrote.

Judge’s decision clarified that the penalty for not complying would be $1,500, not the maximum of $25,000 or more the county said it could have imposed.

The church has until 4 p.m. Tuesday to comply. After that, penalties could accrue up to $25,000 over time if the church doesn’t get the proper permits. The church still can ask the hearing examiner to reconsider her decision.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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