County low-balling land offers, owners say

GRANITE FALLS – Robert Beevers says having a road built through his barn is one thing, but having it done without being paid a fair price is another.

The planned Granite Falls bypass road would slice more than two acres off the southern border of his 6.5-acre property. Beevers said Snohomish County is not offering enough money for the land.

Robert Beevers, 67, and his wife, Lloye, 68, were planning to sell the property to finance much of their retirement.

“This is throwing a monkey wrench into that,” Beevers said. “We might end up having to stay.”

County officials say they are following the law, and that property owners will be adequately compensated.

The $32.6 million, 1.9-mile road will loop around town to the north, connecting Highway 92 to the Mountain Loop Highway. The county, the state, the federal government and Granite Falls are pitching in to build the road. Work is scheduled to begin as early as next year.

Beevers and his wife are among the owners of six chunks of property who have hired a lawyer to fight the county over the value of their property.

The cases are all scheduled for trial between May and October.

The county is offering $79,250 for the slice of Beevers’ property. An appraiser hired by the couple’s attorney placed the value of that slice at $141,000.

Sandra Alf, who owns nearly five acres bordering Mountain Loop Road, is being offered $50,000 for more than an acre through her property. The road would make the rest of her property difficult to develop, she aid.

Her plan was similar to the Beeverses.

“I have held on to this property for 30 years figuring that this would eventually be my retirement,” said Alf, 63.

Their attorney, Bruce Galloway of Lake Stevens, had appraisals performed to compare with the county’s appraisals.

“Almost across the board they’re off by at least 50 percent and as much as 80 percent,” Galloway said.

Joe Bennett, a contract attorney handling eminent domain cases for the county, said the offers aren’t final.

“It’s likely we’ll increase that initial offer,” Bennett said. “Before we go to court we’ll make another attempt to try to resolve this.”

Discussed for nearly 10 years, the bypass is intended to relieve city streets of an increasing number of trucks rumbling through town. A 2002 study found that more than 1,000 trucks a day were going through town on the highway.

The bypass road will be two lanes with paved shoulders and roundabouts at three intersections.

Under state law, the county makes an offer, and if it’s not accepted, the parties negotiate. If they can’t reach agreement, condemnation proceedings are begun and a court date is set for well in advance to give the parties a chance to reach agreement before trial, Bennett said.

Rarely do the cases actually go to trial, said Deanna Clark-Willingham, real property supervisor for the county. In her 15 years on the job, only four cases have gone to trial, she said.

“Ninety-five percent of our acquisitions, we solve without any condemnation action,” she said.

About 45 properties are affected by the road, Clark-Willingham said. She wasn’t sure how many offers have been made but said the county is less than halfway through the entire process.

Bennett couldn’t say why this project has seen so many cases reach the stage where attorneys are getting involved.

“You can’t really say it’s them being unrealistic or us being unrealistic. Maybe it’s a combination of both,” he said.

The county began making offers for property along the Granite Falls route as early as 2000, Bennett said.

Alf said a developer offered her $450,000 for her property in 2000 but backed out when he heard about the planned road, she said.

The county later offered her $350,000 and then $386,000 for her entire 5-acre property, which she turned down. They came back with the $50,000 for the one acre.

The road would curve through her land, taking out the septic drain field, a pumphouse and a well. It would miss the rented manufactured home on the site by just under 10 feet, Alf said.

The road would leave a small triangle in the northwestern corner of the L-shaped property that Alf says would be unusable.

Ann Perrigoue and her husband, David, both of Marysville, own about 75 acres in the area. The land contained three rental homes that stood directly in the path of the road and that have already been demolished.

Altogether, the county has offered them about $600,000 for 11 acres, while their attorney’s appraisal pegged its worth at more than $1 million.

Bennett said Wednesday with the Perrigoues’ trial coming up first in May, the county is prepared to offer them more than $1 million.

Ann Perrigoue still doesn’t think it’s enough. Even the second appraisal, she believes, undervalues the property because it was completed after a moratorium went into effect on sewer hookups in Granite Falls, limiting the land’s development potential.

She didn’t say whether she would accept the offer.

Galloway said the Perrigoues are more well off than some of his other clients, such as the Beeverses and Alf.

Robert Beevers said he and his wife bought their lot in 1970 and built their house themselves. They still care for their daughter’s horse, which lives in the barn.

“It was our dream house,” he said.

Now, they’re not sure whether anyone would want to buy the property with 1,000 or more trucks per day roaring past, Beevers said. The county also wants to put a storm water retention pond in the front yard, he said.

“I want to get on with my life and would like them to do something.”

Reporter Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439 or sheets@heraldnet.com.

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