SEATTLE — The advertisement that grabbed Thom Kroon’s attention marketed a no-longer-used fire station as a "unique residential dwelling.”
So Kroon purchased the property from the city of Seattle in a 2012 auction.
Kroon told KIRO-TV that he “thought we had essentially bought a residential property” for $712,000.
The Seattle man then spent thousands of dollars on interior remodeling, and for more than three years, his extended family and friends used the firehouse for holidays, celebrations, charity fundraisers, graduation parties and as an office until a Land Use Notice of Violation arrived in July 2016.
According to the city of Seattle’s violation letter, a “complaint about this property” had been received. A housing and zoning inspector “investigated” and found “violations of the Seattle Land Use Code.”
Kroon was ordered to "discontinue all unauthorized uses including but not limited to office and residence" because "the legally established use of the property is as a public facility (fire station)."
“I thought it was sort of a joke when they said it’s still a fire station,” Kroon recently told KIRO. “I said, ‘Should I buy a truck?’ I mean, seriously, this is just crazy! You sell a residential property, and then you tell me it’s still a fire station?”
According to a civil lawsuit Kroon recently filed in King County Superior Court, the 2016 letter was "the first time the City had notified ... the Kroon family that Fire Station 38 was not – as the city had represented – a residential dwelling."
Kroon was also sued by Seattle for alleged violations of city Municipal Code, for "using Fire Station 38 as something other than a fire station." According to Kroon, the city’s lawsuit against him was accruing penalties of $500 a day, for a total of “someplace around $400,000 in arrears,” he said.
However, the city's lawsuit was dropped after Kroon hired land use and zoning attorney Clayton Graham to counter-sue. “After that,” Graham – of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP in Seattle – told KIRO, “it appears that people’s attention was more focused on solving the permitting issue.”
Graham is now hoping to help his client recover at least the $50,000-$80,000 Kroon estimates he has spent battling the city.
“If any seller sold a property as a residence and it couldn’t be used as a residence, the buyer could seek recourse for damages,” Graham explained. “We’re just trying to hold the city to the same standards that the rest of the community need to live by.”
Kroon's civil complaint alleges the ad used to market Fire Station 38 was an "intentional" and "negligent misrepresentation." According to his attorney, “the city hired a third party agent to sell the property, but the city had supervisory control over that agent.”
Kroon also claims his constitutional rights were violated by the city's investigator because the Notice of Violation "was based on illegal and unconstitutional entries onto the property."
“It appears someone might have come onto the property and peeked through the windows before they could draw the conclusion that this was being used as an office or residence,” Graham explained. “If this is the way the city of Seattle, or other cities, enforce their code – by coming onto property with no consent and no warrant, that’s a major problem.”
Kroon has since received his certificate of occupancy from the city of Seattle and now enjoys his fire house as often as possible, but he and his attorney believe the city handled the entire promotion and sale of Fire Station 38 improperly.
In Graham’s opinion, “the city should have solved the problem, got it permitted for residential use and marketed the property as residential. Or the city should have disclosed to bidders, ‘Hey, by the way, the first thing you’re going to have to do when you buy this property is get it permitted for residential use, unless you want to run it as a fire station.’”
Kroon believes “there was some deception going on inside the city,” and now he wants Seattle to “just make me whole.”
KIRO requested interviews with the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections, and the Seattle City Attorney’s Office to discuss the allegations in the Kroon complaint.
Those requests were denied. Instead, Dan Nolte of Pete Holmes’ office said in an email: “We’re currently investigating the claims brought in this lawsuit and will then prepare a response to the allegations.”
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