Taxi cabs and tossed housesI don’t have a great idea for a column this week, so I’m going to be a bit lazy and just write on a couple of topics that have been on my mind lately. So if you’re looking for a Pulitzer Prize winning piece, this ain’t gonna be it. With that disclaimer, let’s get started.
Kudos to my old pal Billy Tackitt, owner of Fuller O’Riley’s. He’s formed a group with several other Lake Stevens establishments and is starting a free taxi service to and from local nightspots. Whether you’re a bar-hopper or not, one can’t help but notice the increase in DUI patrols since the LSPD bulked up its ranks. While the Boys in Blue are helping to discourage drunk driving, bar and restaurant patrons have had little-to-no safe and legal transportation options. There’s no local cab service, and taxis from Marysville or Everett often take an hour or longer to arrive on busy nights.
So Billy bought a van, and started up the Lake Stevens Care Cab service. Starting today, anyone wishing to visit Fuller O’Rileys, Razzals, Hawkeye’s or the Buzz Inn can call 425-870-4500 and schedule a free pick up. That’s right no need to worry about leaving a car at the bar, the Care Cab picks up patrons and delivers directly to the destination. When the night is over, call again and get a ride home. Oh and all of this is free, with a tip for the driver of course. Billy says that the service will get its first true test during Aquafest, when the taxi will be posted in front of the beer garden ferrying partiers home safely for the duration of the weekend. Check the blog for pictures and more info.
In other news, I’ve heard from some Frontier Village area residents unhappy with a pending development. Usually I don’t really see the merit in complaints about development, as many times people are just complaining because they don’t want the project in their backyard, and often times the complaining starts after the entire public process has run its course with no local resident participation. But this case is different.
I haven’t talked to the people behind the Horizon Hills project located at 1210 Vernon Road, but to me it seems like a perfect example of why developers often get a bad name. In a nutshell, the developer plans on demolishing three homes and building 44 single family residences on less than four acres. Fine. This probably wouldn’t have been kosher with the Lake Stevens City planners, but the project was approved by the county prior to annexation. The developer bought out the three homeowners and moved ahead with the plans, following the permit process and gaining proper approval, as far as I can tell.
The problem started a few months ago, when the homeowners vacated the property. I know it’s not the case, but it looks as if the homeowners were given five minutes to pack their things and leave.
The three homes have gone from respectable properties to dilapidated eyesores within a short period of time. The yards are completely overgrown and choked with weeds. Trash litters the property. There is a felled tree haphazardly sprawled across the driveway of one house.
I can understand that when a property is vacated, the yard care will fall behind. Sure, a developer trying to work with the community might work to keep up appearances in order to build good will, but the yard-care issues are not my major complaint.
The problem I have is that all three houses have their doors and or windows wide open, while household items and appliances have not been removed. Vandals and kids have taken to running amok through the vacated structures, helping themselves to whatever’s lying around. Toasters, dryers, washers, boards and other garbage is everywhere. At one home, the window was wide open to the elements, the back door, front door and side doors were also ajar.
At another house, the back door and garage door are open. The back door enters into a home where half of the floor has been stripped away, creating a potentially hazardous situation for a reckless kid to fall through. Overall, it looks like all three previous residents suddenly keeled over dead and nobody came to claim their property.
This is a nice neighborhood. Most of the homes adjacent and near the Horizon Hills property are worth a half million or more. Many residents have lived there for 20 years or longer. The eyesore that this project has become is an insult to the neighbors and a blight on the City. This is a newly annexed area. This is not how I picture Lake Stevens, and not what residents of the area deserve as new citizens.
When building a new project, developers often talk of being good neighbors. Many are. So far, Horizon Hills is the polar opposite of a good neighbor. It’s a slap in the face. I can’t imagine that the residents of the 44 new homes are going to see a lot of automatic good will when they move in.
It’s not too late to fix the problem. I’m calling on the developer to clean up the deserted properties and show some respect to the neighbors. I’m also calling on the City to patrol the area. Lake Stevens shouldn’t be a place where drifters strip the hulls of vacated homes for scrap metal, or where kids play among broken windows, rusty appliances, and rickety broken floors. I’ll update everyone on where things stand on this the deserted houses and to join the conversation, go to the one in later issues. To see pictures of Off the Record blog at www.lakestevensjournal.com.
Kevin Hulten is the former Managing Editor of the Lake Stevens Journal and a nearly lifelong Lake Stevens resident. He now works for the state government.