As conditions for granting a building permit, the Washington County, Oregon government demanded that Grimm's Fuel Company pay it $1,200 up front, build concrete sidewalks and make various other public works improvements.
Addition Request Leads to Extortion Demands
Grimm's Fuel Company specializes in landscaping, heating and yard debris recycling services in and around Washington County, Oregon. In May of 2000, owner Jeff Grimm applied to the City of Tualatin for a building permit to add a 7,200 square-foot extension to house an additional three employees and store extra office supplies. The permit was readily approved by city officials, but officials from Washington County intervened before Grimm received the permit. The County made additional demands for an extraordinary number of conditions they said had to be met before Grimm could begin construction.
County demands included the payment of a $1,200 administrative deposit, installing concrete sidewalks along the business' property, eliminating one of three accesses to the county-owned Cipole Road (accesses Grimm had maintained for decades) and dedicating an additional right-of-way for "adequate corner radius" at the intersection of Cipole Road and Highway 99.
Grimm contended that all of the demands were expenses the county should pay for, and that he should not be required to incur the costs of the changes just to receive a building permit.
Tualatin officials reviewed the county demands, but refused to impose them. City officials argued that the addition to Grimm's property in no way required such radical changes.
The architectural review of Grimm's proposed addition, prepared by Tualatin officials, said: "The county has also required that right-of-way be dedicated along SW Cipole Road and that a sidewalk be installed along the property's frontage... The county has not submitted any findings supporting their requirements. Therefore, [Tualatin officials] are not recommending that these requirements be included as conditions of approval for this development." The city government, however, did not aggressively challenge county officials' continued assertion that the permit fell under their jurisdiction due to Grimm's county road access. This left Grimm at the mercy of county government and hostage to their demands.
After two years of negotiations with Washington County officials failed to reach an agreement, Grimm decided to officially apply for a county building permit. Since the problems revolved around the county's demands regarding the city permit, Grimm thought that applying directly to the county might force a resolution. But county officials refused to let him apply for a permit, creating legal standing for Grimm to file a lawsuit to force the county to take action. This led to a settlement before the case went to trial. The settlement allowed Tualatin officials to grant Grimm his building permit by waiving the condition for him to obtain an access permit from the County. Grimm's addition was finally completed as initially approved - without the county's conditions.
Sources: Oregonians in Action Legal Center, Dave Hunnicutt, Jeff Grimm, City of Tualatin Planning Department
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Reprinted with permission from The National Center for Public Policy Research.