By Larry Simoneaux
As can happen, I’m late to this story.
Still, even with being late, this story stood out.
It stood out because it clashed with the sense of fairness that still resides in most of us. And when that sense of fairness is encroached upon, we tend to speak up.
I read the recent Herald story concerning several homeowners in the city of Snohomish being charged for unpaid building fees. More aggravating yet, the money is for fees the city itself failed to collect from the original developer. Said fees ran to thousands of dollars for each home involved.
Now, years later, the city is going after the only people — the homeowners — left standing on the “field.” And the reason they’re the only people still on that “field” is that they were (innocently) unaware that there even was a “field.”
Sorry, but the idea that these homeowners owe the city money for fees the city failed to collect from the developer stinks. It stinks because it’s simply not the right thing to do. Legally, it may be something else but, if the law sides with the city on this matter, then, to borrow a quote from “Oliver Twist”: “If the law supposes that, the law is a ass.”
I’d think differently if the homeowners were part of some odious, nefarious, covert plot hatched in the dead of night, in a smoke-filled room, at some distant rendezvous, to avoid paying those fees. Were that the case, then I’d say, “Go after the scoundrels and make them pay the fees.”
But that isn’t the case at all. Rather, It seems that someone, somewhere, in some city office, either screwed up or wasn’t paying attention. The upshot of such was that the fees that were supposed to be paid by the developer never got collected. Then, later, this steaming pile of a bureaucratic snafu was discovered and, now, the easiest targets are the homeowners.
So, yes, I have an opinion. Like I said, the whole situation simply stinks.
As I read the story, my first thought was, as noted, about fairness – which isn’t anywhere to be seen. And about common sense – which is conspicuously absent. And about doing the right thing – which, apparently, isn’t being considered by the city given a statement along the lines of “our hands are tied” regarding the collection of the fees.
Apparently, I’m not alone in such thoughts. I’ve read the comments that followed the online version of the story and also a letter to the editor that was published a few days following the story.
Generally, any story will engender a give and take among readers. Such will involve those who agree with the story and its content and those who disagree. Discussion and arguments on both sides will ensue.
Not in this case, though. Here, the response has been unanimous and that response can be best summed up as “are you kidding me?”
As an example, here are a few quotes from the commenters:
“The city should just accept the loss, accept the fact they blew it…”
“Why did it take so long for city officials to notice there were uncollected fees on these homes? This should be between the city and the builder/developer…”
“Nobody wants to take responsibility for anything anymore, and in this case, they want to pass the costs on to the homeowners who are innocent of any wrongdoing…”
In his published letter to the editor, Jeffrey Roy stated:
“Not only were policies poorly defined and poorly executed, even the disciplinary steps weren’t recorded well enough to defend against wrongful termination … The handling of the entire matter is nothing short of a joke. Now these homeowners are to accept the joke is on them?”
I know that money is tight for governments everywhere. Trust me, it’s even tighter for the citizens who live under those governments. In this matter, there are substantial fees that were due (from the developer) and that went uncollected by the entity that was supposed to have collected them.
This is not the fault of the homeowners involved. Keep them out of this and release them from the debt. It’s simply the right thing to do.
That still matters, doesn’t it?
Larry Simoneaux lives in Edmonds. Send comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org