LAKE STEVENS — A city project meant to improve traffic flow and provide better access to a commercial area is displacing a longtime local business.
While the state Department of Transportation prepares to overhaul the intersection of highways 9 and 204, the city of Lake Stevens is about to start work on a new road into the nearby Frontier Village Shopping Center. The city aims to build Village Way before work starts on the highways.
A doctor’s office that has been in the same spot for two decades is directly in the path of the new city street.
The state two weeks ago released a video about the Highway 9 and 204 interchange. The through lanes of Highway 9 are to be lowered under Highway 204 at the intersection. The Highway 204 bridge would connect to the west end of Frontier Village. An additional lane is to be added in each direction on Highway 9 near Fourth Street NE, and access from the highway to Fourth Street will be improved.
Construction on the nearly $70 million state project is expected to start next year.
Village Way, a roughly $550,000 city project, will link Fourth Street NE with the south end of the shopping center and provide a detour during highway construction, city Public Works Director Eric Durpos said. Before it can be built, though, the city-owned building at 9407 Fourth St. NE must be demolished.
Dr. Philip Ranheim’s medical office has been there since 1998. He’s a specialist who works with patients to find the underlying causes of chronic conditions, including allergies.
His former landlord sold to the city about two years ago, as officials were making plans for Village Way. When he and wife Karen Ranheim began leasing from the city, there was an understanding that, at some point, the building would need to be torn down, they said. But they were told in 2016 by a former city employee that they would have plenty of notice and help with the move, Karen Ranheim said.
“We just didn’t worry about it,” she said. “There was a verbal reassurance that the city valued our business and wanted to work with us.”
In February, employees noticed surveyors outside. The Ranheims checked with the city. They learned they were expected to leave in four to six months, Karen Ranheim said. Shortly afterward, they received written notice to be out by the end of May, but later got approval to stay through June.
They started looking for a new office.
There was no medical space available that suited their needs, they said. They looked in Lake Stevens, Snohomish and part of Everett. They found a former dance studio blocks away from their current office, and are paying about $70,000 to transform it.
“That’s a considerable expense we did not expect going in,” Karen Ranheim said.
She’s been researching eminent domain, to see if they could receive financial help from the city. They discovered that Lake Stevens is not legally required to pay relocation costs, but say city leaders have the option. The law’s stated purpose is to provide “fair and equitable treatment of persons displaced as a direct result of public works programs … “
Theirs is the only business in the path of the new road.
“If this road wasn’t going through here, we’d stay here until we retired,” Karen Ranheim said.
The city has tried to be flexible with the Ranheims, according to Durpos and City Administrator Gene Brazel.
“As long as they’re out before construction starts, we’re fine,” Durpos said.
He hopes to get into the building soon, though, to do asbestos testing required before demolition. To finish Village Way before the highway project starts, he’s aiming to have paving complete by October, when the weather window for that work closes.
The city offered to expedite any permits the Ranheims need for improvements to their new space, Brazel said. The city can’t help financially, he said. When it bought the property, the previous owners could have negotiated relocation costs, but did not, he said.
As tenants, the Ranheims are in a different spot than if they’d owned the building. If the city paid for their move, it could be an illegal gift of public funds, Brazel said. The city’s attorney was asked to look at the options.
“There’s no mechanism for us to go back and give them relocation funds,” Brazel said.
Karen Ranheim hopes the city will take another hard look at the situation. “This is not a legal issue, but it’s an ethical issue,” she said.
The Ranheims expect to move their business by June 21 to 25 95th Drive NE, Suite 109.
For a time, it was unclear if they could afford to reopen. Still, Philip Ranheim is determined to continue his practice. It would be wrong to close and leave patients in the lurch, he and his wife said.
“I’m really glad we found something in the area,” Philip Ranheim said. “This is where my patients are. This is where my name is.”
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.