POULSBO — Hana’s Smoke Shop and Food Mart has been closed for 15 months now.
A collapsed portion of overhang above the sidewalk has not been repaired. More overhang is water-stained and bowed.
The gas station, closed for business, is listed by the state Department of Ecology as a leaking underground storage tank site, according to Karen McKay Bevers, public information officer for the Kitsap Public Health District.
Five of eight rentals in the shopping center, one of them an upstairs apartment, are unoccupied. A portion of the ceiling in the apartment’s living room has collapsed.
And according to the Kitsap County Assessor’s Office online database, the unpaid tax bill on 19559 Viking Ave. NW continues to grow: Owner Jung Shin owes $43,366.94, reflecting three annual unpaid tax bills of $11,000.
On July 27, not much seemed to have changed at the former food mart, which had black mold, leaks and other issues when the Herald toured the site more than 15 months earlier. During that tour, the store smelled wet and musty; black mold grew up the walls where the coolers had been; drywall had decayed, leaving a hole a child could walk through. A black mushroom grew out of a baseboard outside the restroom. A canopy of plastic sheeting caught water that leaked from the roof above an upstairs apartment, through the floor and into the store. What the makeshift leak catchment failed to hold, buckets strategically placed on the floor collected water that was black.
On July 27, detritus from the former food mart was visible through the windows. Openings for mail and vents could provide easy access into the food mart for critters, although it’s not known if animals have gotten into the building.
When the North Kitsap Herald reported on business tenants’ concerns about the building’s conditions in April 2016 (http://www.kitsapdailynews.com/news/back-rent-vs-black-mold-three-businesses-appeal-eviction-say-building-conditions-are-hazardous/), Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson said, “In my mind, the owner needs to come and clean it up. If you let your property fall apart to possible danger, we have the authority to make you clean it up.”
Afterward, the city hired a police officer who is assigned to code enforcement. The officer, Jeremy Robinson, has investigated 30 code compliance cases since January 2017, Poulsbo Planning Director Karla Boughton said. Of those investigations, 23 became code enforcement cases.
But while 19559 Viking Ave. NW is on the radar of city and public health officials, it’s not been investigated.
One reason, Erickson said, is a code compliance investigation is initiated by a complaint. When the city hired a code enforcement officer, “We were very clear that we were not going to go out and look for problems,” she said. “We don’t want to be overreaching. We will try to find out if someone is complying with the code, but we want to do it in a way to get them into compliance.”
Similarly, Grant Holdcroft, environmental health specialist at Kitsap Public Health District, said his agency will investigate only if a complaint is filed.
“If someone called and said there is garbage or rats or hazardous waste outside the building, we would respond,” Holdcroft said. “We don’t normally go inside a building unless a building department says there are sanitation issues and they want our opinion, or there are structural issues such as a roof is caving in. It has to be pretty egregious.”
In April 2016, food mart owner Hana Shin (no relation to the owner) said her customers had called Kitsap Public Health to complain about mold and other issues. Bevers said Public Health conducted business pollution prevention visits at the site in February 2016 and November 2015, “but those [were] outreach/education visits with the tenants, not complaint generated.”
And, Erickson said, that April 2016 Herald story and her earlier recollection of two business tenants visiting City Hall with their concerns won’t initiate a site visit because they occurred before the city hired a code enforcement officer.
On June 13, Robinson emailed in response to a Herald question about the site: “After researching the status of code enforcement action at 19559 Viking Ave. NW, No. 109, it was determined to be a civil issue between the tenants of the building and the owners. The Planning & Economic Department did not have an active case on this issue. I did contact the Kitsap Health Department and was informed that they have no record of being involved in that specific case.”
Issues related to that property go back 10 years. Three business owners said in 2016 that the property owner relieved them of rent payments until she repaired the leaking roof — work that was never completely done and has, they said, caused black mold, damage to inventory, and jeopardized the health of customers and employees.
The property owner later started eviction proceedings against three businesses, but one of those business owners, Thomas Castillo of The Electrical Shop, said eviction proceedings have stopped. A message was left July 28 for Jung Shin’s attorney, Thi Huynh of Seattle.
In Hana Shin’s declaration filed with Kitsap County Superior Court during the eviction proceedings, she wrote:
“… In 2008, I complained to the plaintiff regarding the leaking roof. In 2009, I sent pictures along with a letter of the damage the leaking roof was causing. In 2010, I sent additional pictures of the resulting damage. In February of 2013, as the issue [was] still not addressed, I retained an attorney to send a letter to the plaintiff (mail was returned to sender) …
“Shortly after the above letters were sent, I received a call from the plaintiff asking that I refrain from having legal representation. Plaintiff indicated she would remedy the defective condition … As of April 2016, these issues continue to plague not only my business but the entire building.”
Richard Drippon, proprietor of Custom Cycles Northwest, which is now closed, wrote in his declaration:
“In 2007, a heavy rainstorm caused a deluge of water to break through the ceiling. This resulted in severe damage to the property and much of my property, including two of my customers’ motorcycles … The roof has continued to leak severely, causing rotting in the ceiling and walls, which eventually led to black mold conditions. Two of my employees quit, claiming respiratory problems due to the ongoing mold …”
The Herald tried unsuccessfully on July 27 and 28 to contact Drippon, calling two numbers associated with him and his former business.
Meanwhile, Mayor Erickson said residents can file code compliance complaints online at https://cityofpoulsbo.com/report-a-neighborhood-issuecomplaint/ or https://cityofpoulsbo.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/complaint.pdf