New deadline for Raccoon Lodge to fit with Port Townsend regulations

Builder opposes changes to artistic facade

Posted 11/30/22

Not much has changed since the city of Port Townsend targeted a popular art piece in an Uptown neighborhood for lacking permits in October.

Called the “Racoon Lodge,” the impromptu …

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New deadline for Raccoon Lodge to fit with Port Townsend regulations

Builder opposes changes to artistic facade


Not much has changed since the city of Port Townsend targeted a popular art piece in an Uptown neighborhood for lacking permits in October.

Called the “Racoon Lodge,” the impromptu artistic add-on attached to an old tree stump has been faulted by the city as a public health hazard. But it’s proven popular with residents, who have circulated a petition calling for it to be saved and have lobbed comments in support of the structure at city officials.

For Kevin Mason, the artist behind the 15-foot-high artwork, it’s been a sorrowful status quo.

“I’m pretty depressed right now with the way this is all going,” Mason said.

Sleepless nights and health issues have haunted Mason since the start of the dispute and it only seems to be getting worse.

“My blood pressure’s been so high I had to go to the emergency room the other day,” Mason said. “It was over the stroke level and I was told to go by a nurse. She said, ‘You have to go now.’”

Since the public demonstration, petition, and subsequent community outcry, the only change on the city’s end has been to push back its deadline for Mason to respond to the city’s ultimatum.

Originally the city had asked for a voluntary compliance by Nov. 30.

A new deadline of Dec. 30 has been established for Mason to respond.

Public comment on the Raccoon Lodge will be accepted at the council’s meeting on Dec. 5.

The whimsical wooden facade, built to hide an eyesore of a Monterey cypress stump, is a new one for the city’s code enforcement efforts.

“It’s not something that we’ve really had to deal with before,” said Port Townsend Community Development Director Emma Bolin.

The five options the city has suggested include a permanent donation of the art piece to the city; a temporary donation of one to two years; having Mason purchase insurance for the structure; modifying it to meet code; or removing it entirely.

Bolin noted the city had offered options to keep the Raccoon Lodge in place.

“I’m pretty proud of our team, to take something that was pretty challenging but also come out the other side with some flexibility and ways forward that include keeping the structure in its entirety,” Bolin said.

Either permanently or temporarily donating the piece to the care of the city would save Mason the cost of insuring it, city officials said. But in order to do that, Mason would first have to pay for a building permit and have a registered engineer examine the lodge. Additionally, the structure could require modifications.

All of which have costs.

“My budget allows: I can tear it down. My budget doesn’t allow for engineering for the tree,” Mason said.

While almost 3,000 people have signed the petition to save the Raccoon Lodge, the city has said it will not pay for the engineering report.

On average, a structural engineer will charge between $100 to $200 per hour.

Insuring it privately has the same requirements for having the lodge reviewed by an engineer, as well as the cost of the insurance itself.

Another option would be to modify the structure to be in compliance of city regulations, which would mean shortening it by more than half.

That’s a choice, however, that Mason isn’t ready to accept.

“I would be willing to make certain adjustments or whatever to the structure, but as far as me totally changing the whole vibe of it? I built it with love, I built it for what I thought was art. I didn’t think they had a right to tell me what to do with my art,” Mason said.

On top of the engineering fees, Mason said he’s unable to draw up plans for a permit because of how unique the structure is. It’s a project that has evolved, he said.

“[The city] is equating this to ... going into a building or something, and adding on to it, or adding onto a flat wall,” Mason said. “I added that on organically, and because I have 50-plus years of experience. I know how I added that on. But you can’t draw up those kinds of things. You’ve got to organically adapt to what the surface is.”

He’s not worried about a piece of the lodge falling off and hitting someone on the sidewalk, a concern the city has repeatedly raised.

“I put big bolts on there into big, good wood. That’s enough.”

Mason is clear that he offered his art freely to the community, and that he does not want anyone else’s money, including fundraising. He only wants the ordeal to end.

“I wanted to give this to the community for free, but now that they want all this other stuff. They should pay it if they want to keep that structure,” he said. “Otherwise, I’m taking it down because that’s what I can afford.”

“If they really want to bail themselves out, then they can pay for the engineering and they can pay for whatever it takes to keep it.”


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  • Raccoon Lodge

    Hello neighbors, Im Kevin Mason I live in Port Townsend 18 years, I built the Racoon Lodge.

    Please understand it is not my nature to have to defend my work from anyone. In 50 years of building unique and special archetectural details on a commercial level ive never been put it this position. I love the fact that so many have shown their support for this whimsical local art piece in front of my house.

    So much has been said about this from the city side I wanted to make a brief statement using my own words.

    Who is the expert from the city who keeps saying that my art piece is a public health hazard. Who is the expert that says it is may fall on someone when they have not even taken a brief look at how it is built, and stopped me from finishing it.

    I offered to show the building officials that came to look at it that it was not a hazard, and my plan to continue to prevent it from filling with rain water and how I was further going to secure it to the huge stump. I was told to not do any more building on it. FYI It didnt budge during the worst wind storm in 30 years but so many big branched broke off the big tree in my back yard that the good neighbor decided to take the tree down. . Big trees were coming down all over town however my Racoon Lodge didnt budge of lose a single twig.

    I created an art piece and didnt think for a second the building dept would make my life miserable over it.

    I created this because I have 50+ year career knowledge of building unique architectural details of this scale and detail. I tried to show the building officials some photo examples of my extensive building experience and they did not seem interested.

    I wanted to bring a bit of whimsical joy to the SAD STUMP. With out ANY cost to the Community.

    Now the city has offered me to give it to the city, but its gonna cost ya..

    Wait, I alread gave it to the city and paid for the whole thing.

    I Love my neighbors and friends in Port Townsend

    Some in the City have lost their way and do not know their neighbors and have ignored the sign as you come into town.

    "Welcome to Port Townsen a Victorian Seaport ARTS community."

    Thursday, December 1, 2022 Report this