County and Port agree to meet in court
An intergovernmental dispute that has blocked development of a site occupying the former Harbor Café, is heading to Skagit County Superior Court.
The Whatcom County treasurer and the Port of Bellingham have agreed to let the court decide who owes taxes to the county once a tenant abandons a building on land leased from the port.
The former owners of the building owed personal property taxes to the county when the restaurant ceased operations and the owners declared bankruptcy. Through a provision of the lease, properties revert to the ownership of the port when tenants default on their land rent payments.
The treasurer has taken the position that such buildings are subject to liens and may not be sold or demolished by the port until the lien is released. The port, on the other hand, believes the county can only be paid through the sale of the building. If there is no buyer and the county declines to take ownership of the building, the lien is released, according to the port.
The county and the port earlier agreed to a sale of the contents of the building on July 29. Plans by the treasurer to sell the building itself on August 12 were suspended by the agreement to seek guidance from the court.
Port attorney Frank Chmelik stated the port and the treasurer’s office had been in discussions for over a year on the matter and that there was a basic disagreement between the port and county regarding the application of Washington law to the situation.