Couple learn hard lesson about buying a home

Lack of knowledge about county road plan causing security headaches

By Erik Hidle, Columbian staff writer

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Josh and Rachel Wasser say the problems that have cropped up since a county road expanded to within 20 feet of their front door are downright scary at times.

In the decade since the road expansion, they’ve worked to keep garbage from piling up in the shoulder area between the house and the road. Folks often use their driveway as a turnaround, and because of the precarious slope, Josh has towed more than a few vehicles out of the yard. One day, they even found some people using their outdoor water spigot to fill up some water bottles.

But most spooky is that the family vehicles have had half a dozen break-ins in the past four years. It’s such a frequent occurrence that the Wassers say their 10-year-old daughter is uncomfortable at times just to be at the house located in the 2700 block of Northeast 119th Street.

“At this point, she’s not sleeping well,” Rachel says. “She’s afraid of her own house.”

Rachel has been diagnosed with lupus and fibromyalgia, and while most days are manageable, she says there are times she has to walk with a cane. Her daughter’s concerns include worrying over what happens if someone comes onto the property during the days where the illness is taking its toll. When she speaks on the fears of her family, Rachel gets emotional.

“It’s just so hard,” Rachel says, choking back the start of tears.

Josh has installed hundreds of dollars worth of security cameras recently to perhaps catch some of the perpetrators. The family also has some flood lights in the area.

Still, the best answer might be to build a fence.

The Wassers believe there was a fence planned in the original county plans. The county contends there was not such a plan but has decided to allow the Wassers to build a fence within the county right of way.

The Wassers say they believe the real reason for their plight were the unscrupulous sales tactics of the previous owner who insinuated county land was actually included in the purchase.

They took the previous owner to court but ran out of money to continue the legal battle.

And the bigger problem in this instance is that the county worked with the previous land owner during mitigation of the new road.

The moral of the story, says Josh, is “get a lawyer when you’re looking at buying a house.”

“I look at other people that might be getting into a similar situation and I hope they know what is planned,” Rachel says. “I hope they are aware this can happen.”

Clark County Public Works Director Pete Capell said these types of issues occur “somewhat frequently” and the best way to avoid them is to work with a real estate agent who knows what’s happening in the area. Capell said such future changes are noted in paperwork required during property transactions. The Wassers say their agent didn’t know of the county’s plans, and they did receive an insurance payout from the agent but it was meager compared to the new problems.

Capell said if home buyers are thinking of purchasing without an agent, or just want to be certain of the scenario, the process can be daunting. Future developments are noted on an arterial atlas included within the county’s comprehensive plan, which is an esoteric document.

“So if someone wants to call down here, I’m all right with that,” Capell said.

Capell says his department’s customer service line can help individuals looking to see if they might be purchasing land in a soon-to-be construction zone.

“And we have people who do an amazing job of taking care of others,” he said.

The customer service number is 360-397-2446.