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April 13, 2009

Whatever Happened to Pastor Fuiten?

Posted in: religious right

Until recently, Joe Fuiten of the Bothell, WA Cedar Park Assembly of God was the go-to guy when the press needed anti-LGBT commentary.  Whether it was special rights for straight couples, or insisting that religion is a valid excuse to discriminate, you could always count on Joe to provide an incendiary quote.

So why is Joe no longer the voice of The Washington Hate Coalition?  Why are the likes of John McCain no longer singing the praises of this Professional Christian, Watchmen on the Walls collaborator and Gary Randall colleague?

Maybe it has something to do with his attempt to evict retired clergy and steal their homes?  Just a guess.Below is an excerpt from the Complaint filed by the 10 retired couples that Fuiten’s church tried to force out of the homes they built, sometimes decades ago, at the behest of the Christian Camp which Fuiten’s church now has control of.

What kind of Man of God tries to unjustly enrich his church off the backs of anyone, let alone retired clergy who have dedicated their lives to good works?  No wonder Fuiten no longer dares pretend to be a public moral arbiter.


Superior Court of Washington for Snohomish County

Case number 06-2-09053-3

BACKGROUND

13.  In 1965, the [Cedar Springs] Camp purchased and commenced development of approximately 100 acres of property in Snohomish County, Washington, near Lake Stevens.

14.  Originally, the Camp developed a portion of the property for use as a summer/vacation camp area, and devoted a five (5) acre section of the property for residential lots available for lease.

15.  The Camp envisioned the residential lot area as a way to: 1) engage people in the summer/vacation camp; 2) to more closely link people directly to the Camp’s ministry, and 3) gather volunteer labor for the Camp’s building projects.

16.  However, over time, the Camp realized the benefits of allowing year around residency and began offering affordable lot leases to prospective tenants for a term of one (1) year for such purpose.  Though not expressly stated in the lease agreements over the years, renewal was always at the tenant’s option.

17.  The one (1) year lease term was never intended as a mechanism to dispossess the tenants of their occupancy, but rather was used to allow the Camp to adjust the rent from time to time.  Historically, rent was adjusted sporadically (not annually), usually in small increments averaging 10-15 dollars per month, as the Camp’s operational costs increased to maintain the residnetial lease area.  From 1966 through 2004, the Camp increased the rent from $10.20 to $150.00 per month.

18.  Initially, tenants used their lots as a vacation property primarily during the summer months, using tents, travel trailers, campers and motor homes.

19.  Snohomish County began raising various use concerns, but, following multiple administrative hearings, the County was eventually persuaded to allow the continued use of travel trailers, campers, and motor homes on the residential lots.

20.  However, the Camp adopted a development policy which discouraged the use of any kind of mobile housing.  To prevent such use, the Camp began telling the tenants that Snohomish County would not allow travel trailers, campers, motor homes, or other forms of mobile housing at the Camp.

21.  Further, the Camp began insisting that the tenants only construct more permanent, concrete foundation, stick-built housing, and the Camp developed building standards which were incorporated into the leases for such housing.

22.  In addition to building standards, the Camp leased residential lots only to “Qualified Tenants”.  These requirements were in furtherance of the Camp’s stated purpose to provide low-cost, year-round residency in the residential lot area to both active and retired ministers, missionaries, and lay people who met the qualifications of tenancy.

23.  In reliance upon the their option to renew, and in compliance with the Camp’s policy of encouraging year around residency, many of the tenants constructed stick-built, concrete foundation homes, and began living in their homes on a year aound, permanent basis.  Presently, the Residents are using their lots as follows:

24. [James and Loretta] West.  Two story, conventional, stick built home on a full concrete foundation with an attached three car car-port.  West also maintains a detached two-story storage shed.  The Camp assisted West to obtain all building permits.  Construction on the lot was completed in 1984.  This is the West family’s primary, year around residence.

[...]

34.  All homes constructed by the Residents meet the building standards set in place by the Camp.  Additionally, at the time the homes were constructed, all Residents were considered “Qualified Tenants”.

DRAMATIC CHANGES AT THE CAMP

35.  Since leasing their lots, the Residents continued to renew their respective leases with the Camp annually, at their option, until 2003 (with the exception of the Pearsons who were allowed to chose to renew until 2005 1).

1Pearsons did not object to the Camp’s proposed lease terms and chose to renew their lease under these terms in 2003 and 2004.  However, in 2005, after the Church took over management of the board and refused to honor the New Lease, Pearsons joined the other Residents in their objections to the Church Lease.

36.  In December of 2002 the Camp offered a lease proposal that significantly departed from the parties’ historical relationship.  Such changes represented direct threats to the Residents’ ability to remain in their homes.  For example,

    a.  The Camp proposed a more narrow definition of “Qualified Tenants” which would include only those who were credentialed ministers 55 years of age or older.  The Camp has since withdrawn this demand in its more recent proposals.

    b.  The Camp proposed a two-tiered lease rate system requiring all non-credentialed minister tenants to accept lease increases rising from $110/month to $350/month over the course of the next three years, while credential minister rates would only slightly increase during the same period.  The Camp claimed that this distinction was driven by IRS regulations which, if not followed, may jeopardize the Camp’s tax exempt status.  The Camp withdrew this demand when it discovered that its concerns were misplaced.

    c.  The Camp proposed that tenant disputes be resolved by the use of binding arbitration; while the Camp reserved the right to file a court action.

    d.  The Camp proposed that the leases could be terminated and the tenants would have to agree to vacate their homes within 30 days if, for any reason, the Camp lost its tax-exempt status.

These proposed changes negatively impacted the Residents.  First, such changes were imposed upon the Residents without their approval or consent.  Second, by narrowing the definition of a “Qualified Tenant” to “credentialed ministers, 55 years or older” the Camp severely limited the marketabillity and value of the Residents’ homes.

37.  The Residents (with the exception of Pearson) objected to the Camp’s proposed changes in 2003 and entered into negotiations with the Camp to resolve their concerns.  On or about July of 2005, the Camp and the Residents reached an agreement on the new lease terms and a new lease was prepared, a copy of which is attached hereto as Exhibit A (the “Agreed Lease”).  Importantly, the agreement reached allowed the following: a) the tenant’s option to renew; and b) a continuation of original definition of “Qualified Tenant.”

38.  Unbeknownst to the Residents, with the exception of the Pearsons (because Mr. Person was then a member of the Camp’s previous board of directors), the Camp was maintaining concurrent negotiations with Cedar Park Assembly of God of Bothell (the “Church”) for the Church to assume complete control of the Camp, its operations, and properties.  In the fall of 2005, the Church did assume complete control of the Camp, and replaced each Camp board members with persons affiliated or related to the Church.

39.  Given the negotiations with the Church, the Camp approved, but did not execute the Agreed Lease with the Residents.  Instead, the Camp sought and obtained assurances from the Church that the Agreed Lease would be honored, subject only to a few “grammatical changes”.

40.  On or about September of 2005, the Church proposed another new lease (the “Church Lease”) to the Residents which substantially modified the Agreed Lease terms.  Importantly, the Church Lease proposed a definite lease term of one (1) year only; and eliminated the Residents’ option to renew, leaving the Residents with no option but to incur the expense of moving their homes and other improvements, or abandoning them in the event the leases were not renewed.

41.  It is next to impossible for the Residents to move their homes because the homes were not designed or constructed to be moved.  Thus, moving them would substantially impair their value.  However, even if the homes could be moved, the bridge which serves as the only ingress ad egress to the residential area would not support such loads, and substantial logging and brush clearing would eb required to allow for such passage.

42.  The Church Lease also alters the historical purpose of the arrangement by allowing for unfettered lease rate adjustments.  This concern is nto merely academic – since the Church proposes to increase rents by eighty-three percent (83%) over a three (3) year term.  The Church’s proposal is particularly objectionable because most of the Residents are retired seniors, living on low fixed incomes, and because such increases will likely force the Residents out of their homes.

43.  And finally, the Church’s refusal to honor the terms of the New Lease previously agreed upon has converted the Residents into month to month tenants and forced them to remain under constant threat of short notice termination/eviction.  Such status has also stripped them of the security of knowing their right to remain in possession was at their option.  The Church has effectively swapped the Residents’ option to renew for its option to terminate by forcing the Residents into month-to-month tenancies.  Such status has completely stripped the Residents of all reasonable value of their homes, leaving the Camp in the position of being unjustly enriched because it is likely the only buyer for the Residents’ homes.

FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION – DECLARATORY JUDGMENT

44.  The Residents reallege the allegations in the foregoing paragraphs a though full set forth herein.

45.  The Residents have not executed a new lease with the Camp or the Chruch since 2002, (except for the Pearsons who have not executed a new lease since 2005).  The Residents are considered by the Church to be month-to-month tenants.

46.  The Camp encouraged the Residents to incest in and/or make significant improvements to their respective leased lots; assisted them in obtaining building permits from the county to construct homes, solicited their volunteer labor in developing and building many camp owned improvements, and benefitted from the resident’s financial contributions and volunteer labor to the camp ministry for 30 plus years.  As month-to-month tenants, the Residents suffer the possibility that their leases will be terminated on as little as twenty (20) days notice, in which case, the Residents stand to lose their homes and investments.

47.  The terms of the Residents’ continued tenancy on their respective lots are in considerable dispute and have been rendered uncertain to the extent that the Church has disregarded the lease agreement the Residents reached with the previous Camp board, and to the extent the Chruch refuses to acknowledge the original purpose and historical terms of the parties’ relationship over the past 30 plus years, including the following terms:

    a.  Since the residential lot lease area was developed in 1966, the Camp established a tradition of lease renewal at the option of the tenant.  Now, the Church refuses to acknowledge this lease term.

    b.  Until recently, the Camp maintained its mission to provide afforable, permanent residence to active and retired ministers, missionaries and lay people.  Until 2003, the Camp limited average rental increases to 10-15 dollars per increase.  Now, the Church demands unprecedented increases to the Residents’ rental obligation.

48.  These fixed, low income Residents invested in the development of their permanent residences in reliance upon the original purpose and historical terms of the parties’ agreement, which are now being substantially altered to the Residents’ detriment by the Church’s current lease proposal which does not incorporate the terms of the parties’ historical relationship.

49.  Despite changes in management, the Residents trusted the Church’s assurance to continue the lease terms consistent with the historical terms and commitments.  The effect of the Church’s current lease proposal is to severely diminish the value and marketability of the resident’s homes.

H/T Goldy


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