Alexander, J. Petrich, A.c.j., and Reed, J. Pro Tem., concur.
The City of Fife appeals a judgment of the Pierce County Superior Court declaring that Frank and Mary Jakutis had not "vacated or abandoned" real property owned by them, thus, permitting their continued nonconforming use of such property. We reverse.*fn1
In 1968, the Jakutises purchased a food manufacturing and storage facility near the City of Fife, located on a parcel of property in unincorporated Pierce County. In 1973, Fife annexed the property into the city. In 1979, the City
zoned the property for single family, residential use only. The Jakutises continued, however, to use the facility for manufacturing and storage of foodstuffs, a nonconforming use under Fife's ordinances.
In 1982, the Jakutises contracted to sell the property and building. Their purchasers continued to use the property for essentially the same purpose as had the Jakutises. In 1986, the purchasers defaulted on the purchase contract and ceased all operations at the facility. The purchasers filed for bankruptcy and removed most of the equipment from the building.*fn2 The Jakutises obtained forfeiture of the purchase contract and regained possession of the property in January 1987. They have attempted to sell the property since 1986. The building and facilities have not been used for any purpose since July 1986.
On March 17, 1988, the City of Fife notified the Jakutises that, because the nonconforming use had been terminated for 13 consecutive months, the Jakutises were no longer permitted to maintain the nonconforming use. The Jakutises objected to this determination. On April 11, 1988, the Mayor of Fife notified the Jakutises' attorney that they could continue the nonconforming use of food processing on the property. On June 12, 1989, Fife's city attorney sent the Jakutises a copy of a letter that had been written to the Fife community development director stating that the Jakutises could not use their property for any use other than single family residential use.
Upon receipt of the city attorney's letter, the Jakutises brought an action in Pierce County Superior Court for a judgment declaring that they could maintain the nonconforming use of the property. The trial court, after reviewing affidavits presented in lieu of testimony, entered findings of fact and granted a declaratory judgment to the Jakutises on
the basis that they had not intentionally "vacated" or "abandoned" the property.
At the outset, we direct our attention to section 19.76.040(D) of the Fife Municipal Code, which relates to nonconforming structures. It reads as follows:
When a nonconforming structure, or structure and premises in combination, is vacated or abandoned for six consecutive months or for eighteen months during any three year period, the structure, or structure and premises in combination, shall thereafter be required to be in accordance with the regulations of the zone in which it is located.
(Italics ours.) Another section of the Fife Municipal Code, 19.76.070(D), applies the above quoted language relating to nonconforming structures to ...