After nine years, Ferndale cracks down on 'nuisance' home

FERNDALE, Wash. -- Drive through the small Whatcom County town of Ferndale and you'll find a bit of building going on: backhoes moving dirt, men in hard hats, and more.

Some of the attention, however, does not appear to be as much on the new city library being built on Main Street, but the building just west of it.

"It's a life safety issue," said Sam Taylor, city clerk and community information officer for the city. "Obviously people see it when they're driving by. Our first mission is to always protect life safety."

The house, at 2147 Main Street, is a multi-story building surrounded by scaffolding and adorned by two American flags. On Tuesday, the front yard had several piles of brick, a few large crosses, and a baby carriage, among other things.

The house has been under construction since 2005, largely without the proper permits, Taylor said. Officials have long been concerned with safety.

"We've heard nicknames from the community like 'the Munster House,' 'the Weasley House' from 'Harry Potter,'" added Taylor. "We can't say for certain that it is or is not safe."

"We have a perfect, spotless safety record. We intend to complete our dreams," said homeowner Arthur Rojsza, who said he has been a contractor for three decades and is calling this project a clock tower. "The dreams are large, but I think we are capable of doing that."

Those dreams may be facing a setback. On May 27, the city filed a notice of violation deeming the property a nuisance. The notice details "unhealthy or unsightly conditions," ranging from the debris piled on the front lawn to construction equipment visible from the street.

"Our intention is to clean this. We are going to make improvements," Rojsza said. "We (have) run a construction operation for the last 30 years in four different countries. It's been spotless. Zero accidents."

The Rojszas added they believe they've been unfairly targeted for political reasons. A city spokesman denied that.

"Our son was running for mayor," said Margaret Rojsza. "Right after he announced he was going to run for mayor, we got a letter that our permit is (expired)."

The owners have until June 26 to clean the property or face a fine of $1,000 per day. They can also appeal.

"We would want to keep going. Unfortunately, we have to keep going in the fashion which normally is less than productive, but what can we do?" said Arthur Rojsza. "Government is in charge, we just have to follow the rules."

"This isn't a black and white issue," added Taylor. "There are many people who would love to see it finished, and the city's included in that."