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San Juan County Prosecutor

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Judge's decision on May 7

Google Earth aerial photographs were used to obtain a search warrant after numerous unsuccessful efforts to obtain Errol Speed's permission to visit his Orcas Island property to follow up on a complaint of a suspected unpermitted single-family residence.

Speed was subsequently charged with three misdemeanors and one gross misdemeanor - providing false statements or misleading statements to a public servant (the county assessor).

Today at 1:45 p.m. Wednesday, March 20,2013 in San Juan County District Court, Judge Andrew will hear arguments regarding the validity of the search warrant.

In court documents, Speed says the resolution of the images on Google Earth is higher than what could be seen with the naked human eye from an aircraft 1,000 feet above his property. Therefore, details such as the deck, chimney, skylights and porch on what he calls his accessory agricultural building couldn't be seen and therefore there no grounds for a search warrant.

According to court documents Speed constructed a structure without a permit; occupied a structure without an occupancy permit; and failed to provide approved sewage disposal in a place where people reside.

According to court records, Speed told the county Assessor the building was an accessory agricultural building and had no electricity, plumbing or septic but did have a wood stove.

When the search warrant was executed, propane, electrical and plumbing lines were visible under the structure. Inside it contained "a bed, desk, kitchen table, kitchen sink with plumbing and drain to the exterior, wood stove, gas lines, gas stove, refrigerator, couch, bird cage with bird, clothing and other miscellaneous household items consistent with residential dwelling use and human habitation." An outhouse was on the property.

In his court declaration, Speed says the structure has skylights because it is not served by OPALCO and has no electrical lights; it has a stove, as any structure not in the tropics would have, has a wrap-around deck as an extended outdoor work space, and has a covered deck to keep the entrance dry and store materials out of the rain.

The charges are:

Count I: Violation of the Unified Development Code: Unlawful use or maintenance of an unpermitted structure. Punishable up to 90 days in jail or a $1,000 fine or both. Plus restitution and court costs.

Count II: Violation of the Unified Development Code: Unlawful occupancy of a building or structure without an occupancy permit.

Count III: Violation of the Unified Development Code: Failure to have approved sewage disposal.

Count IV: Making false or misleading statements to a public servant. This is a gross misdemeanor punishable up to 364 days in jail or a $5,000 fine or both. Plus restitution, assessments and court costs.

Any residence, regardless of size, requires an approved building permit. Any structure, whether it be a single-family residence or an agricultural building such as a barn or shed, which exceeds 1,000 square feet requires an approved building permit. A structure less than 1,000 square feet may be constructed with an Owner/Builder exemption approved and reviewed by the county.

There were no building permits for and property taxes were not correctly assessed on the building which according to court documents filed by the county Prosecutor is a residential structure.

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