‘It’s selective enforcement’: Olympia man told to move RV off private land while others allowed to stay

Another person’s junk is Don Wolph’s livelihood. If you visit his home, he calls OlyToys on Old Highway 101 west of Olympia, you may get that same impression.

He owns nine acres split into several parcels in semi-rural Thurston County.  His closest neighbor is 1,000 feet away.

Strewn over the street side of his land are hundreds of toys, many large plastic play houses that he has bought or had donated. He cleans them up and resells them to people who can’t afford new ones.

"This keeps me active enough to keep me alive," said the 70-year-old.  "My doctor says my heart is at 25%." 

The toys would have been destined for the landfill because it's made of a plastic that’s not recyclable. 

At first glance it looks like a junkyard, but it's his organized treasures.

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In the last week of March, he got a letter from the Thurston County Compliance Officer.  It was a warning that included the line "certain activities can violate local ordinances."

"I thought they were complaining about all this," he said, pointing to his toys and hundreds of other items in front of his home. "When I found out it's about the motorhome, I thought, what?"

Next to his home is Tammy Town’s 30-foot Class A RV.  She has been living there since December after the RV park she was staying at in Centralia flooded. 

She’s been friends with Don and his wife since 1991.  She is also seriously disabled after a myriad of health issues including diabetes.

"I can’t afford to move into another RV park now, it's just as expensive to get into an RV park as it is to get an apartment," she said. "I’m not strong enough to do all the stuff that needs to be done with an RV."

"If it wasn’t for us, I think she would have kicked the bucket."

Don doesn’t charge her any rent. He runs an extension cord from his home to power the RV.  He fills her water tanks and dumps her sewage into his septic tank.

"I've been raising and breeding Shih Tzu for 30 plus years, they are my babies," she said.

In February, Tammy had a heart attack.  The nearby fire station responded and she was taken to a hospital. 

Someone in the group of first responders was concerned about the welfare of her dogs.  She had 13 of them at the time in the RV with her. 

Thurston County Animals Services was called and after a visit, determined that Don and his wife could care for the dogs and there wasn’t an issue.

But Animal Services sent a complaint to the Thurston County Compliance Office about a possible kennel license violation.  Tammy is licensed in Lewis County as a breeder but not in Thurston County she said.

A representative of the office came out, inspected the property and then sent the warning letter to Don.  The warning had nothing to do with the kennel issue. 

"She told me I had to get rid of her (Tammy) within 30 days," he said.  "She is not allowed to stay more than 30 days or they will come after me." 

The Compliance Officer considered Tammy’s RV an "accessory structure."    

Thurston County Code 20.34.030 on accessory structures says: "These types of equipment (RVs) are intended for recreational use only and do not meet building, fire and safety and health code standards associated with residential uses." 

It also says, "temporary occupancy is permitted but shall not exceed thirty days in any six month period" and there must be a gap of 45 days in between occupancies with a limit of just two stays per year.

"That’s overkill," said Don. "There’s too many people out there that are homeless with no place to go and we got a place for her." 

"I'm too hurt, sick, my kidneys shut down, car accident, heart attack and infection, give me a break," said Tammy.  "And they want to get down on me on top of that, I just want to know who died and made them god."

"It’s selective enforcement and I say that's wrong" says Don.  "Just look at what the County is allowing by St. Pete’s hospital."

Three times a week, Tammy must drive to dialysis treatment near Providence St. Peter’s Hospital , Each time she passes by a string of 30 motorhomes and trailers parked on Ensign Road.  It stretches for more than a quarter of a mile. 

"I could never live like that, but I may have to if I have to move" says Tammy. 

The Ensign Road camp has been an issue for more than a year but the County has allowed the motorhomes and trailers to stay.   As with most municipalities Thurston County limits parking on a public street to 72 hours. 

"Why should I have to move her when they let them stay forever?" says Don. "Why don’t they apply the same rules to those RVs that I’m facing."

"That’s not fair to him, this is his land" says Tammy. "I just want to know why they are doing this?" 

We emailed  the Thurston County Compliance Office and asked several questions.  Too many dogs was the reason for the initial visit the office responded.

It also answered several of our questions with "no violation has been determined as of this date."

However, Don has come up with a temporary solution.   He plans to move Tammy’s RV 75 feet to another parcel on his nine acres.  That way, the 30 day clock will start over, but he doesn’t have enough parcels to keep the RV shuffle going for six months. 

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"I would run another 100 foot extension cord but that would be a fire hazard and so I don't feel safe doing that," he said.

Street RV dwellers in many cities have learned their own version of the RV shuffle.  Many parked on a public street just move their motorhome one block when they are threatened with a parking ticket for exceeding the 72-hour limit.

Don believes he may have to do the same, on his own property to avoid the 30 day limit he and Tammy are facing.

"This is my own property.  I just paid them $1272 in taxes."