Neighbors allege county surveyor did unpermitted work during brief time he owned property on Schoolhouse Creek
By Damian Mann for the Rogue Valley Times
A “neighbor war” in the Buckhorn Springs area south of Ashland has led to nine alleged code violations against Jackson County Surveyor Scott Fein and a stalking order against Scott Ford, a neighbor whom Fein blames for his legal problems.
First elected as surveyor in 2012, Fein has received a summons to appear April 20 before the Jackson County Hearings Officer to respond to code violation allegations on a property he sold last year at 1195 Tyler Creek Road.
The alleged violations, each of which carries a potential $1,000 fine, include grading, installing a culvert, electrical work, moving a building and removing vegetation and shade trees in the riparian area of Schoolhouse Creek. Much of the work occurred at the end of 2021, shortly after Fein bought the property.
Neighbors blamed a Dec. 28, 2022, road washout on the installation of the culvert and other work in 2021, prompting an investigation that led to the allegations of code violations by Jackson County Code Enforcement.
Fein has disputed the allegations, saying he is working with county officials to settle the code issues, expecting a resolution before he appears before the hearings officer.
“Everything I did was in accordance with the law,” said Fein.
He said he expected most of the remaining violations will be cleared, though this could not be confirmed with county officials. Jackson County Counsel Joel Benton said he couldn’t comment on the alleged violations.
When the Rogue Valley Times called Fein March 9 to ask him about his date with the county hearings officer, Fein threatened the paper with legal action if it ran an article about the alleged code violations.
“I will come after you hard and heavy, harder than anyone has ever done,” Fein said.
Fein sent an email to the Rogue Valley Times two days later, on March 11, reiterating his threats.
“I promised … you that I would pursue civil and criminal actions for violations of Oregon’s Stalking Laws, Oregon’s Child Welfare Endangerment Laws, and Oregon’s Communication Laws. I promised you to be prepared for the heaviest weight of the law to be cast upon you like few have ever witnessed,” Fein wrote.
Stalking order issued
The neighbor war between the county surveyor and his neighbor escalated Friday, March 10, when Fein got a temporary stalking protective order against Ford, whose complaints to the county resulted in the code violations against Fein. The order was signed March 6 by Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Charles Kochlacs.
On March 10, a sheriff’s deputy responded to a disorderly conduct report on Tyler Creek Road, stopping both Ford and Fein on Highway 66. According to the sheriff’s report, Fein said Ford tried to run him off the road. Ford said that Fein was the aggressive driver.
Ford and Fein, who both called to report the incident, were advised to stop harassing each other, according to the sheriff’s report. While Ford and Fein were stopped, another deputy arrived at the scene and served Ford with the stalking protective order.
Fein stated in the order that Ford had trespassed on his property multiple times, threatened his family and installed a video camera to keep track of Fein’s comings and goings.
According to the protective order, Fein stated Ford “violently screams” and has accosted his wife and children.
Fein stated that on Dec. 1, 2021, Ford allegedly trespassed on his property, and that the incident was reported to the sheriff’s office. The sheriff didn’t file charges against Ford, but Ford acknowledged he’d trespassed and said he wouldn’t do it again, according to a description provided from the sheriff.
According to the temporary stalking order, Fein and Ford will need to appear in court April 17.
“I am fearful that Scott Ford’s next action toward me and my family will be violence,” Fein stated in the order.
Included in the protective order is an email from Ford to the Oregon Department of State Lands saying he is fearful of retaliation from Fein.
“Jackson County taxpayers should not have to pay for his (Fein) negligent and corrupt actions,” Ford stated in the email. “Residence (sic) of Tyler Creek Road should not live in fear that an elected county official is going to retaliate against them should they report him for his abuses.”
County records show Fein bought the 7-acre property on Tyler Creek Road Nov. 22, 2021, for $60,000 and sold it for $210,000 to Clint Combes on May 12, 2022. Fein said he’d been preparing the property to build a house, but decided to sell it after the situation with Ford became more hostile.
Much of the work on the property related to the alleged code violations occurred in November and December 2021.
At the time, Ford said, he and his partner worried that Fein was preparing the property for a hemp or cannabis grow.
According to Oregon records, Fein is listed as the main contact for Baldy Basin Agriculture Science, a hemp-growing operation with an address of 600 Tyler Creek Road, which is Fein’s address. Combes’ hemp-growing license was listed as inactive.
But after the road washout on Dec. 28, 2022, and further investigation, the county’s position shifted.
Alicia Brown, division manager for code enforcement, sent Steve Lambert, Jackson County Roads director, an email Dec. 29, 2022, indicating she’d received photos and complaints from “multiple parties” about the Tyler Creek Road washout.
After code officers reviewed the damage, she stated in the email, “So far the evidence we have looks to be of value.”
She stated that if her department could adjudicate the violations, it would be possible to reimburse Jackson County Roads for the work done through the enforcement process.
Brown told Lambert that Fein had been calling her office about the issue.
Fein, in a series of emails over the past four months, pleaded with various county officials that he was not responsible for the Tyler Creek property because he owned it for only six months.
On Feb. 14, Fein sent an email to Ted Zuk, Jackson County Development Services director: “… I received 9 citations in my name 8 months after selling the land all based on the word of a hater neighbor Scott Ford of 1188 Tyler Creek. In my humble opinion the county is (sic) the middle of a neighbor war started by (Scott) Ford and (Pat Murphy) Garfas of 1188 Tyler Creek who do not want a home across from them.”
Zuk, in a Feb. 17 email, told Fein he wanted practical remedies to correct the violations.
“Nowhere in your email do I see a response as to remedying the violations,” Zuk stated.
Zuk told Fein that he should plead the merits of his case before the hearings officer and not with him.
On Dec. 28, 2022, Lambert, the Jackson County Roads director, sent an email to five county officials indicating that concerns were being raised internally about Fein.
“FYI … I notified (County Administrator) Danny (Jordan) about this yesterday, as neighbors up there were blaming Scott (Fein) for the issues and throwing his name around with our staff. … Didn’t want Danny getting blindsided by the media if they picked it up, as it involved a local elected official.”
“Please make sure our department stays far clear of getting involved in this dispute any more than we need to … and please share with your staff,” Lambert added.
In an interview with the Rogue Valley Times, Fein said the Jackson County Code Enforcement allegations are the result of “technical errors” by Brown, the code enforcement division manager, and he accused Brown and Lambert of “collusion.”
“This is not good for the organization,” Fein said. “It’s going to make a lot of people at the county look bad.”
He said, “One thing this highlights: untrained code enforcement staff is rapidly increasing the number of complaints in this county.”
Fein has also complained to code enforcement about Ford and Garfas, claiming that gasoline tanks on Ford’s property were leaking and that a building didn’t have the right permit.
“Mr. Ford is dealing with a bunch of code complaints that I sent in,” Fein said.
“He is doing nothing but harassing us and filing all these unfounded complaints,” said Ford. “He was trying to nitpick and find things out about us.”
Reach freelance writer Damian Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story first appeared in the Rogue Valley Times.