A well-known “nuisance home” in north Spokane was shuttered Tuesday morning – its windows and doors boarded up and its occupants forced to leave – after years of complaints from neighbors and a year and a half of intervention from police.
Caleb Coulson, who’s lived across the street from the house for three months, said the single-story home was infamous in the neighborhood for harboring drug users and felons. He said it was common to see multiple people coming in and out of the house, often late at night, and for drug transactions to take place in plain sight.
Some days, he would see men pounding on the front door or breaking windows. On other days, neighbors would complain about how people known to stay in the house would search the area looking for things to steal.
So when police put a notice on the door Monday informing the occupants they had 24 hours to vacate, Coulson was relieved. More so on Tuesday morning – when they cleared the home and began boarding it up.
“It’s kind of awesome,” he said while wrapped in a blanket and standing on his front porch as he watched a contractor cut sections of particle board across the street. “Just a couple of days ago we were talking about how the neighborhood would be much nicer without it.”
For about a year and a half, Spokane police have been documenting incidents at the house at 548 E. Central Ave.
The house was the target of about 150 calls for service from Jan. 1, 2015, to April 12, 2016, most of them from John Kovtuschenko, the homeowner’s son, said Keith Cler, the Spokane Police Department’s neighborhood resource officer.
Cler said Kovtuschenko would often ask police to remove people from the home after he had allowed them to stay, either rent-free or as paying tenants. Sometimes he would call for help, saying people were pounding on his door wanting to be let inside.
On Tuesday morning, 44-year-old Tanya Maurer and her friend, who declined to give his name, were both standing outside of the house where they claimed to have been paying rent for months. A large pile of clothes and personal items sat next to them.
They said at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday they were abruptly asked to leave and only had time to grab about a third of their things before being kicked out.
“We had about five minutes to pack up,” Maurer said. She said she had no idea the city was planning to abate the house, and only learned it was going to happen when she saw the notice to leave Monday morning.
“We had no idea,” she said.
But Kovtuschenko certainly did. According to records, he was issued multiple warnings about the chronic nuisance at the home, which is owned by his mother, Lidia Arich. She doesn’t stay there.
On March 1, 2016, the mother and son signed a Chronic Nuisance Abatement Agreement, which stated that if things didn’t improve, the city would board up the home.
But Kovtuschenko apparently didn’t take the agreement seriously and continued to draw further police intervention just days later.
Two months ago, the two signed a second chronic nuisance agreement. But during the process, Kovtuschenko admitted to Cler that he had just used methamphetamine with two other occupants the day before. That disclosure prompted the officer to immediately issue a final warning.
The nuisance behavior continued, and on Monday, an order of abatement was issued in Spokane Superior Court. Cler said Arich and Kovtuschenko chose to let the house go.
“The surrounding neighbors are in significant danger from both the homeowner and the people associated with the homeowner,” Cler wrote in his affidavit. “In order to effectively abate the criminal and drug nuisance activity occurring at 548 E. Central, it is my opinion that 548 E. Central must be physically closed and secured.”
This is the first nuisance home to be abated since a West Central home was cleaned up and cleaned out in January. It, too, was known to harbor criminals, one of whom is suspected of involvement in a drive-by shooting.
The north Spokane home will stay under the city’s supervision until Arich petitions to have it released. Cler said that could happen months or years from now – it’s up to her when she wants it back, but she has to correct the nuisance behavior first.
As for the neighbors, he believes they’re going to enjoy the peace and quiet.
“It’s just peace of mind for their family and for their kids,” he said as the contractor’s table saw buzzed loudly behind him. “And the crime rate will go down.”
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