An Eatonville woman who lives below a swath of land that once belonged to the town is suing the land's owner, alleging it was razed and leveled against the advice of experts and that resulting erosion damaged her home.
The floors of Stephenie Jerome’s house are buckling, the walls and foundation are cracked and a spring has appeared underneath, according to a civil lawsuit filed Jan. 19 in Pierce County Superior Court.
“The house is falling down around them,” said Jack Connelly, Jerome’s attorney. “It’s an unfortunate situation.”
DN Properties II, the Puyallup-based developer that owns the land, hasn’t yet filed a written answer to the lawsuit. But Jerry Nybo, a partner in the company, said that the suit has no merit.
The suit alleges that before the hilltop land was sold six years ago, the town and potential buyers were warned by “concerned citizens, geologists and engineers” that it was in a mapped landslide hazard area and that development could cause damage to nearby homes.
It says DN Properties II didn’t take measures to protect down-slope properties before starting work on the land in 2007.
Jerome owns a home in a neighborhood of houses on the 200 block of Mashell Avenue South below the property. She’s lived there with her two young sons since 2004, the lawsuit says. No other properties are part of the suit.
The next year, it says, DN Properties II bought roughly 3 acres from the town. The hilltop property, which still doesn’t have any homes or buildings on it, was a point of a contention in Eatonville for years.
Residents said it was deeded by town founder T.C. Van Eaton for use as a park. When the town tried to sell it in 1976, his children promised legal opposition.
The town considered selling it again in early 2005, and again there was opposition. Residents showed up en masse to the Town Council.
The land is “a very important part of Eatonville’s townscape” and “a resource that we shouldn’t be hasty to give away,” resident Dale Thompson told The News Tribune in 2005.
Attorneys for the town said the property was never dedicated specifically as parkland. In March 2005, the council authorized selling it.
Sara Schilling: 253-552-7058