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Labor Of Love Met By Ugly Sabotage Effort

This spiffy new three-bedroom house comes with vinyl siding, oak kitchen cabinets and plenty of sweetheart curb appeal.

Don’t let the $79,950 price tag scare you. The benevolent folks behind this low-income housing project will toss in $23,000 in assorted grants to get a qualified, first-time homeowner in here.

“It’s a special situation when someone can get into a new home with so much community support,” says Scott Maclay, the Windermere real estate salesman trying to sell the gray and white house at 519 S. Arthur.

There’s only one catch: This jewel also comes with an ugly, built-in feud.

Those involved blame a surly next-door neighbor with trying to sabotage the construction and sale of the home.

Someone drove onto the property one night, spinning deep grooves into the muddy earth. Building materials disappeared. Oil was poured on the fresh concrete driveway. An unknown foul liquid was splattered on one side of the house.

Three times several windows were shattered by flying rocks and bricks. Backyard security lights were broken. A rock was heaved into a steel door hard enough to punch a hole in the metal.

The destruction has turned a labor of love into a royal pain for Gerald Hoffman, who directs the Spokane Community Housing Association.

“I’ll be so glad when I don’t have to come up here and worry about this house,” Hoffman says, adding wearily that he called the police but was told there wasn’t enough evidence to arrest anyone.

The Arthur Street house is one of a number of affordable housing projects sponsored by Hoffman’s organization and several other non-profit social agencies such as the Spokane Neighborhood Action Program and the Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium. Many good-hearted contractors donated time and material.

The worst insult came a few weeks ago. Some kind of poison was sprayed over much of the new front and back lawn. The results were hideous. About 7,000 square feet of this once-lovely yard now looks like it’s been attacked with a flamethrower.

“I planned two open houses this weekend,” moans Maclay. “It looks as if we’ve been napalmed.”

On Tuesday, a state Department of Agriculture investigator gathered dead grass. Tests will show how deep the damage goes. There’s a chance the affected area will have to be dug up and replaced with fresh topsoil.

It’s a weird and infuriating situation, but you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to come up with a prime suspect.

Hoffman points to the two-story house next door at 521 S. Arthur. That’s where Fred Anderson, 37, lives with his mother, stepfather and several relatives.

Believe it or not, all this stupidity may be over a chain-link fence.

Shortly after the housing association bought the vacant lot, Hoffman says his architect discovered the Anderson fence was well over the property line. Four feet in front. Six in back. The fence had to be moved in order to make the building site a legal-sized lot.

Hoffman, a former minister, sent flowers to the Andersons. He footed the bill for the fence move and added an extra 50 bucks for two rose bushes in the way.

Anderson wasn’t soothed. “We’re not happy,” he says. “That fence had been there 18 years.”

The man admits leaving a foul message on Maclay’s answering machine and that he “blew up” at Hoffman and others. He concedes he threw the rock into the door.

Anderson, however, denies any stealing or breaking windows or lights. The ruts, he says, came when his car accidentally slid into the muddy yard and had to be towed out.

As for the lawn poisoning, well, here’s how Anderson tells it: He was spraying weedkiller in his yard and “the wind kind of took it over the fence.”

Anyone who believes that load of fertilizer will be in the market for a bridge, not a new house.

, DataTimes