Displaced by courthouse plan, attorneys want to buy land back

EVERETT — One set of attorneys displaced by Snohomish County’s mothballed courthouse project wants the chance to buy back their old building.

Melissa and Brian Sullivan’s former practice on Rockefeller Avenue has remained vacant in the year-plus since the county bought it and five other properties using eminent domain. The county’s elected leaders had been preparing to build an eight-story courthouse on the site, which also includes a county-owned parking lot. They pulled the plug over the summer, citing budget concerns and Everett’s requirements for more parking.

“We submitted to the government’s demand that we vacate our premises based on the county’s assurance that they had done their due diligence and that the project would break ground within months,” the Sullivans wrote in their Jan. 8 letter. “In the end, our concerns had been spot on. The lack of sufficient parking would be an issue that would eventually scuttle the entire project.”

The Sullivans, a husband and wife who are no relation to County Councilman Brian Sullivan, received $705,000 for their building, land and moving expenses. They say they’ve seen business drop off since moving to a new office several blocks to the south on Rockefeller Avenue. They are now farther from the courthouse than their former prime location. The eminent domain law only requires compensation for the fair market value of a property, not for lost business.

Melissa Sullivan said she’s disheartened to see the waste of having their old offices sit empty and neglected with no public benefit in return.

“The only thing they’ve moved forward with is collecting money from our old parking lots,” she said.

What’s to become of the $3.4 million in property the county acquired for the rejected courthouse plans is an open question. It’s to the north across Wall Street and a block east of the existing 1960s-era courthouse that county leaders hope to replace because of safety issues and maintenance headaches.

County Executive Dave Somers has listed reexamining courthouse plans among his first priorities after taking office this year. He’s convening a working committee of judges, administrators and others with a stake in the courts. They hope to make recommendations to the County Council this spring.

Leaders from the county and Everett city government also are promising better communication this time around.

Somers has said he’s not sure how things will shape up, but he hopes to see a proposal that’s less expensive than the $162 million plan that evolved under his predecessor, John Lovick, and was approved by the County Council. Council Chairman Terry Ryan favors a project that’s also nearer to the existing courthouse on the south side of Wall Street.

The owner of another former law office on Rockefeller Avenue in October filed a damage claim against the county, a precursor to a lawsuit. The owner of a third law office purchased through eminent domain is contemplating legal action.

Royce Ferguson, who was forced from a building where he’d practiced law for more than 20 years, said he recently abandoned a $2 million claim against the county over his personal losses. Ferguson, however, intends to pursue another part of his damage claim on behalf of all Snohomish County taxpayers.

To pay for courthouse construction, the County Council in 2013 approved a property-tax hike then estimated to cost the average homeowner an extra $20 per year.

Ferguson is asking the county to refund those taxes and for the courts to prohibit the county from using the money for other programs.

“That is still a viable and possible lawsuit, for which I would have the extra time and energy to pursue, depending upon what the new administration does about correcting the courthouse mess and addressing the tax increase imposed upon taxpayers,” Ferguson wrote. “That suit ultimately may or may not be successful, but the council would not need to wait for a lawsuit and court ruling before doing what is fair, as attorney Sullivan points out.”

DUI attorney David Jolly said he remains upset about the county taking his old law building, but has not decided on a course of action.

A legal messenger service, a bail bonds business and a private parking lot also were bought out by the county.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

Talk to us

More in Local News

The sign at Swedish Edmonds. (Herald file)
New deal gives Swedish nurses, health care workers a big boost in pay

The health care provider and SEIU 1199NW agreed to raises totaling at least 21.5% in the next three years

Ahadi family arriving in Washington on Oct. 22, 2021. (photo courtesy of Lutheran Community Services Northwest)
A year later, Afghan refugees in Lynnwood see brighter future ahead

Ziaurahman Ahadi served as a trauma medic on battlefields in Afghanistan. Now he builds fireplaces to support a family of eight.

Lynnwood
4th defendant pleads guilty in white supremacist attack

Jason Stanley, of Boise, Idaho is one of four men prosecuted for attacking a Black DJ in Lynnwood.

A business on Highway 99 sustained heavy damage in a fire Wednesday morning north of Lynnwood. (South County Fire)
Arson damages building on Highway 99 north of Lynnwood

The fire in the 15800 block caused the highway to close between 156th and 164th streets SW on Wednesday morning.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Snohomish man suffers life-threatening injuries in police shootout

The Valley Independent Investigative Team reported state troopers returned fire when a driver shot at them near Clearview.

An EA-18G Growler taxis down the airstrip on Naval Air Station Whidbey Island during the squadron’s welcome home ceremony in August 2017. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Scott Wood/U.S. Navy)
Talks break down over ‘remedy’ in Whidbey Island Growler lawsuit

“From the get-go, everyone recognized that it was probably going to end up in the court’s hands.”

Logo for news use featuring Camano Island in Island County, Washington. 220118
Island County settles sexual harassment lawsuit with deputy

The county will pay Deputy Mike Adrian a total of $105,000.

Drivers navigate through traffic at the intersection of Highway 9 and SR-204 on Thursday, June 16, 2022 in Lake Stevens, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Weekend closures ahead for Lake Stevens roundabout construction

The first of three intersection closures is set for North Davies Road and Vernon Road next month.

Washington Secretary of State Steve Hobbs, right, a Democrat, and Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, left, running as a nonpartisan, take part in a debate, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, in Olympia, Wash., with Melissa Santos, center, of Axios Local, moderating. Hobbs and Anderson are seeking to fill the remaining two years of the term of Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman, who left to take a key election security job in the Biden administration. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Murray, Smiley will debate head-to-head at least once, maybe twice

The two will face off in Spokane next month. They could square off in Seattle too before the election

Most Read