Owners fighting forced sale drop effort

By Theresa Goffredo

Herald Writer

EVERETT — The property owners didn’t want to move, but it takes more than wants and desires in court. It takes legal arguments.

And that’s something the property owners didn’t have.

So on Monday, the seven downtown property owners whose buildings are in the way of a $50 million hockey arena and special events center gave up their legal fight against the city of Everett, which sued the owners to condemn the buildings and tear them down for public use.

Walter S. Tabler, of the Seattle law firm Graham &Dunne and hired by the city as lead counsel in this litigation, wasn’t too surprised at Monday’s turn of events, saying the city had an obvious public-use case.

"There’s a steady diet of them in all counties," Tabler said.

Though the property owners decided not to fight the city, not all have settled on a dollar figure. Historically, most condemnation cases settle before going to trial, but Tabler said some property owners might feel they could get a better price by going before a jury.

One such property owner might be Carlin McKinley.

McKinley owns buildings at 2016 Hewitt Ave. and 2904 and 2902 Broadway. She expressed frustration after court Monday about the amount the city has offered for her properties.

"The person who owns the most property should get the most money, and that’s not happening," McKinley said.

All totaled, there are 16 property owners whose buildings make up the two-block downtown area at Hewitt Avenue and Broadway where the city wants to build the arena, which will hold 8,000 for hockey and 10,000 for concerts and shows.

Five of those property owners sold their parcels, but the city had to sue the remaining 11 who had refused to sell. As of Monday, no property owner wanted to continue the fight.

"Everybody folded, and I didn’t want to fight alone," McKinley said.

So far, the city has released only a few settlement figures. The Assistance League sold its building that fronts Hewitt and Lombard for $865,000. Steven Snider, home to Timeless Antiques, sold his for $700,000. Craig Dieffenbach sold the Cosmo Theater for $825,000.

Owners of the Ancient Scottish Rite building at the corner of Oakes Avenue and Wall Street have been given figures in the range of $800,000 to more than

$1 million but those discussions are ongoing, said the Rite’s attorney, Thomas D. Adams.

Still, the Scottish Rite members are going unwillingly, but Adams said there didn’t appear to be a legal leg for them to stand on to successfully fight the city’s public-use case.

"We decided not to oppose because of our conversations all of the lawyers in the case had in private where we tried to find some common theme that might be available as an argument, but we couldn’t find one," Adams said.

And the 504 members of the fraternal organization haven’t been able to find a new place to move that would come near what their 14,000-square foot brick building has provided since 1923.

The organization raises money for scholarships and to help fight childhood language disorders.

"The new city founders don’t understand their history," member Jerry Kunkle said.

"We don’t want to leave our building," he said. "But if they force us out, we’ll go wherever we can find even though we don’t want to leave our community."

You can call Herald Writer Theresa Goffredo at 425-339-3097 or send e-mail to goffredo@heraldnet.com.

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