The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Council member adds to lot purchase report

 

August 2, 2018



To The Eagle:

Responding to 7/16/18 town council article:

The 20 Butler purchase process began in January at the first town council meeting of the year when Dale [Mayor Dale Jacobson--ed.] introduced the opportunity to purchase the lot to council members. The town took ownership of the lot on 7/16/18, the day of the last council meeting.

The property’s tie to the Department of Ecology is significant.

The Department of Ecology produced a “No Further Action Determination” in February 2006. The document states in its introductory paragraphs that the determination is an advisory opinion only which is not binding on Ecology and does not resolve a person’s liability or protect them from third party claims. In the paragraph immediately following the No Further Action determination the document states that the opinion is based on the property’s restrictive covenant(s) and legal agreement which can not be violated without rendering the determination null and void.

The restrictive covenant was created to address the residual toxins on the lot created by the gas leakage from the prior service station. The covenant includes a page and a half of usage restrictions including the following examples: drilling, digging, placement of any objects or use of any equipment which deforms or stresses the surface beyond its load bearing capability, piercing the surface with a rod, spike or similar item, bulldozing or earthwork.

The Restrictive Covenant gratefully includes: “The Owner must notify and obtain approval from Ecology prior to any use of the Property that is inconsistent with the terms of this Restrictive Covenant. Ecology may approve any inconsistent use only after public notice and comment.”

In the April town council session an appraisal of the property was requested to help determine the value of the property. The first appraiser provided a bid of $3,500 to appraise the property which seems high for a vacant piece of land but is possibly appropriate considering the property’s ties to Ecology and the research required.

On April 27th I asked Dale if I could help locate a more reasonably priced appraiser. He agreed. It became clear immediately that the contamination issue was going to increase the appraisal cost and deter appraisers. After contacting a dozen or more appraisers one was located that agreed to provide an appraisal without taking into consideration the contamination. The hope was that the appraisal would provide a best price for the property. The appraiser’s contact information was forwarded to Dale for pursuit.

The mayor has stated that he doesn’t feel the appraisal is valid because the appraiser didn’t have a business license for Cathlamet and was not certified for appraising commercial property.

The appraiser indeed did not have a business license for Cathlamet. No one is required to have a Town of Cathlamet business license until they do business in Cathlamet. The town clerk/treasure ensured the appraiser had applied for and had paid for a Cathlamet business license before being paid for the appraisal.

The lot in question is located in one of Cathlamet’s commercial zones. That does not make it a commercial lot. The lot is located on a street filled exclusively with residences. Residences are also located directly across the street from the lot. Vacant land does not require a commercial appraisal.

On April 27th I suggested an alternate strategy to Dale for identifying the property’s value. Dale agreed to allow me to request Broker’s Opinions regarding the value of the property from the three local realtors. The realtors were contacted, and written opinions of the property’s value were requested. The realtors were all advised the opinions were for the Town’s consideration. A major issue/challenge identified by all was having no like sales for comparison.

In the same quest for finding meaningful information for valuing the property, Tanya [Council Member Tanya Waller] and I requested help from the county assessor who provided several different models for analyzing properties on Main Street using county assessment data including an analysis by square footage for land value only (no improvements/structures).

The price for land on Main Street is approximately $6.50 per square foot. The annual property assessment for the lot for 2018 was $34,400. Using the square footage analysis method, the property increased in value to $40,100. The recent purchase for $68,000 is 70 percent higher per square foot than every other property on Main.

Regarding sales competition: The property was not listed for sale prior to or during the purchase period. At no time was there any threat or valid information reflecting a bidding situation. Comments about “The Wallers” wanting to purchase the property are completely false and inaccurate. Rushing the purchase was not necessary as Earnest Money had already been accepted by the seller. Additional time spent to evaluate the situation and gain citizen input would have been appropriate.

Laurel Waller

Cathlamet

Editor's note: Laurel Waller and her daughter, Tanya, are both members of the Cathlamet Town Council.

 

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