Sunday, March 26, 2023
March 26, 2023

Linkedin Pinterest

Lawsuit moves forward against Bellingham property owner with homeless encampment on land


BELLINGHAM — A civil lawsuit filed against a Bellingham property owner for failing to clean up a large homeless encampment on his property is moving forward.

The city filed the lawsuit in Whatcom County Superior Court on Nov. 22, 2022, against Erwin Rommel regarded an alleged public nuisance on his property at 4049 Deemer Road in north Bellingham.

Now the lawsuit is moving forward after months of no response from Rommel, according to court documents.

Prior to the initial filing of the lawsuit, the city inspected the property. Rommel was then notified via paper letter and email that he would be required to abate the nuisance on his property or appeal the nuisance declaration within seven days. He did not respond to those notifications, according to court documents.

The city then moved forward with the lawsuit so it could take action to clean the site and relocate the people living there at Rommel’s expense.

When conducting an encampment cleanup, occupants are offered shelter and other services and notified in advance of cleanup actions, according to the Bellingham city website.

All camp cleanups are evaluated, prioritized, noticed and scheduled, the Bellingham city website states.

The city attempted to serve Rommel 15 times between Nov. 2, 2022, and Nov. 16, 2022, with documents notifying him of the lawsuit, court documents show.

The city attempted eight more times throughout the month of December to contact Rommel in person, but was unsuccessful, documents show.

On Dec. 20, 2022, Assistant City Attorney Michael Good spoke with Rommel on the phone, according to court documents. Rommel told Good, “You screwed up. I talked to a lawyer and you haven’t served me yet,” documents show.

An attorney did contact the city on behalf of Rommel for the first time on Friday, Jan. 6, according to Bellingham City Attorney Alan Marriner.

Though it is unclear whether a formal attorney-client relationship has been established, clean-up of the property can be faster and less costly if the property owner cooperates with the city to abate the encampment, Marriner said in a telephone interview with The Bellingham Herald.

Erwin Rommel has not returned email or phone communications from The Herald regarding requests for comment on the litigation.