justice-smiles-blue-large.pngIt’s not every day that one embarks upon the (soft) launch of one’s blog about boundary dispute law. It’s also not every day that a boundary dispute issue lands above the fold on the front page of The Seattle Times. Yet, both of these events have happened today.

So, before the paper that this story is written on becomes a “glove” to catch flying fish at Pike’s Place Fish, I want to jump on it. Notably, today’s “snow storm” [note that I’m originally from Minneapolis] has already pushed this story to the netherlands of the virtual world. So here goes; the Article by Lynda V. Mapes opens and then soon continues with the following:

Betwixt and between mansions, with no signage to indicate its public ownership, Waterway 1, despite its venerable, more than 100-year history, has suffered a long spate of indignity.

Just a quarter of an acre or so in size, fights over this tiny bit of land, intended to provide public access to Lake Washington, have so far generated a police report over an alleged wrongful hedge chopping, engagement of at least one lawyer to take on the encroachers, and uncounted staff time invested by the city and state to sort out the mess.

All this over the “The Vacant Lot,” as the property at 43rd Avenue Northeast and Northeast 35th Street is known in the neighborhood.

Intended as a place to launch a kayak or enjoy the view, the appeal of the waterway – a grassy swale leading down to the lake – has been diminished by a dock, fences, landscaping, a towering hedge, and other encroachments into the public space by adjacent landowners over the years.

The key facts related to this “bit of land” appear to be as follows:

  1. It is publicly owned;
  2. It is encroached upon by neighbors;
  3. It accesses Lake Washington;
  4. It is not generating tax revenue for the city or state;
  5. It appears to be relatively unknown beyond the Laurelhurst neighborhood (most folks of whom probably aren’t avid kyaker).

Certainly, there must be a wicked, land-grabbing bum that is fulfilling Garret Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons. Why goodness, the sister of Bill Gates is involved in this  matter too. This doesn’t look like the [ill-framed/ill-fated] intended good works that father Bill Gates Sr. sought with Initiative 1098. What’s goin’ on here?

Well, although I don’t have all the facts, including the police report. I think that we can fairly take the story of Bill Gates brother-in-law and sister, Doug Armintrout and Elizabeth Gates Armintrout, at face value. It is related as such:

Armintrout said neither he nor Bill Gates had planted the hedge, and that he didn’t know about the encroachment when he and his wife moved to the property. “I hope it doesn’t come through that we were trying to grab any land,” said Armintrout, a real-estate investor and homebuilder. “It is something we stumbled into, and when the DNR [“Department of Natural Resources”] approached us we explored every option, and now we have decided the best course of action is to vacate the encroachment.”

As to the five points that I pulled out above, dear reader please be patient with me. I would like to lay down some other groundwork before cycling back to their legal implications. Yet in due course, I will do so. That’s a promise.justice-smiles-blue.png