Superior Court Judge Chris Wickham found Jon Pettit in contempt of an injunction that prohibited public camping on the property until litigation between Pettit and Thurston County was resolved.
Pettit, who owns 28 acres along the Deschutes River, has allowed the public to camp and gather there for free. The property has multiple campsites with picnic tables, fire pits and six portable bathrooms, attracting an estimated 200 to 400 visitors on nice weekends.
County code requires Pettit to obtain a special-use permit to have camping on his property, which is zoned rural residential/resource. The special-use permit would cost $6,440 and require a hearing before the hearings examiner. Pettit also would need either a $1,010 shoreline exemption permit or a $2,640 shoreline-development permit because of the access to the Deschutes River, county Resource Stewardship director Cliff Moore has said.
Pettit counters that his property use is governed by the Shoreline Management Act and refuses to apply for a permit. He also says his property is not considered a campground because he does not require those who stay to pay.
The county placed a stop-work order on Pettits property July 2. Pettit responded with a $3.8 million claim that the county rejected July 26.
The county in turn sued Pettit and held an injunction hearing Aug. 10. During that hearing, Wickham ordered Pettit to stop allowing camping.
Pettit said he placed a sign prohibiting public overnight camping at the driveway of his property, and when necessary, asked people to leave. Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Rick Peters said Pettit has violated the order with non-stop overnight camping since the court decision.
He implies they are all family or friends and not subject to the injunction, Peters said Friday.
Wickham said Pettit had no evidence that people staying on the property were family members or friends.
Whatever he did was grossly inadequate to prevent the type of use the county was trying to prevent, Wickham said. Peters asked for a $1,000 fine for each time the order was violated, but Wickham chose $500.
My goal is not to impose a penalty, but merely to encourage him to refrain further activity, Wickham said, adding that the county will likely prevail based on the information he had been presented.
The judge imposed a broader injunction, prohibiting any camping or recreational activity on the property day or night.
Wickham urged Pettit to be cautious.
Past actions have gotten you to this point, he said. Should you continue that kind of action, you will be back here again. Pettit said he plans to host a party for a fire department, as well as a cross-country event for Black Hills High School. He also planned to open his property to a classroom of students to study the river.
Pettit said he originally planned to close overnight camping Sept. 15.
It looks like I may be subjecting myself to a few thousand in penalties, he said.
Pettit said he plans to appeal any future rulings on his property.