Community

Clinic owner concerned about squatters after deal falls through

People are apparently living without permission and possibly against building codes in the former Vashon Family Practice office after plans to transform the space into a residence fell through, according to Sjardo Steneker, who owns the building.

“People have moved in without my consent and they are still living there,” he said in an email to The Beachcomber.

Steneker said people have moved into his office building in town, despite the fact that islanders Michael and Rebecca Parks, who had planned to rent the building for use as a boarding house and later as an assisted care center, backed out of their five-year lease.

A staircase built at the property has also been tagged by the county’s Department of Permitting and Environmental Review (DPER), which says it was built without a proper permit, which may result in a fine.

In an email to The Beachcomber, Steneker said he was taking action and had hired a lawyer, but declined to talk on the phone or give further details on the situation.

“I can’t give you details at this time,” he said.

The Parks did not respond to phone calls, but Doug Sudduth, the couple’s son and the contractor hired to do work on the building, said his parents backed out of their lease because they found out the building would require around $100,000 in remodeling work in order to be permitted for their planned use.

Sudduth said two people, whom he called caretakers, had moved into an upstairs apartment in the building, but he believed they were there with Steneker’s permission and said no one was living downstairs. A Beachcomber reporter who walked outside the building on Friday saw downstairs windows open and heard voices inside the building, but no one replied to knocks on the building door.

Vashon Family Practice closed in 2011, after Steneker’s medical license was revoked, and the large office space with several exam rooms has been unoccupied since.

Last month, Rebecca Parks talked with a Beachcomber reporter about her and her husband’s plans to rent the building and open Serenity Vashon, the name they gave their intended facility. The building was slated to open July 1 as a boarding house, she said, and would become an assisted living center when the proper licenses were obtained, which she anticipated would be in about six months. At the time, she said that rooms would be available for $250 a week and would include use of a kitchen area, common bathrooms, sitting rooms and an exercise room.

A website for Serenity Vashon still advertises a home for seniors and disabled individuals and says that boarding rooms are available for $225 per week.

Sudduth said he and his parents made about $10,000 of improvements to the building in preparation, including installing new external stairs, and seven people were on on a waiting list to move in. He said most of them were low-income individuals; about half of them were veterans, and they had agreed to pay $500 a month to live in the former exam rooms that had been outfitted as bedrooms.

“A lot of these guys were on Social Security. … They can’t afford more than $500 for a room,” he said.

While the Parks said they planned to open the boarding house before Fourth of July weekend, Sudduth says that they changed their plans and backed out of their lease once they began the King County permitting process and found out how much work would have to be done on the building.

“It needed too much work to the building to make the county happy,” he said. “Bringing the building to up code for that type of use was cost prohibitive.”

Sheryl Lux, a code enforcement officer with DPER, also said the Parks inquired about permitting the building but didn’t continue the process. She said Michael Parks applied for a pre-application meeting to discuss installing a new staircase and obtaining a change-of-use permit to use the building as an adult daycare and assisted living facility. However, when he learned about the requirements of the change-of-use permit and the items that would be discussed at the meeting, he decided not to go through with the meeting, she said.

“When he heard what all was going to have to be looked at, he decided he wasn’t going to do that,” she said.

Lux said a code enforcement case had been opened for a set the exterior stairs that was built on the south end of the building without a permit. She added that DPER posted a stop-work notice on the stairs, but allowed the rails to be built on it for safety. The building owner must still apply for a permit for the stairs, she said, or face a fine from DPER.

Lux also said that if anyone lived in the former doctor’s office, that would also be considered a building code violation and would also be punishable by a fine.

“We would add it to this code enforcement case if we found out they were (using it) in a manner that’s not approved,” she said.

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