City settles with Blaine developer

Published on Thu, May 7, 2009
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By Jack Kintner

Blaine developer Joel Douglas and the city of Blaine have settled their differences in an agreement signed this week, marking the end of a four-year struggle over Douglas’s Seascape Condominium project on Peace Portal Drive.

In essence, each party agrees to cancel the succession of lawsuits and appeals that were being heard simultaneously in five different county, state and federal jurisdictions. Each side pays for its own legal fees and agrees that no judgments against the city of Blaine or payments to Douglas will result.

Blaine city attorney Jon Sitkin said, “The city is pleased with the settlement. Everyone bears their own legal costs, and since the city’s expenses were paid by insurance the expenses were minimal.”

On Monday Blaine City Council approved the settlement pending receipt of signed copies from Douglas, which Sitkin said was imminent.

The wrangling over Douglas’s project began in the fall of 2005 a few months after the city gave Douglas his initial building permit when the city issued two stop work orders, something Douglas publicly called “a lynching.” One applied to work that the city contended was being done on city property and the other to stormwater drainage construction that the city contended was being done without the proper permits.

At the time, Douglas appealed to the city council with material that showed city approval of various kinds of designs and plans, saying “we had all this in, early, $13,000 worth of work and they never responded to any of this. We’ve given them all the material they’ve asked for.” He added that when asked the city to find their copy they couldn’t.

By the time the settlement was reached the legal battle had grown into actions being carried out simultaneously in the Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the United States District Court in Seattle, the Washington State Supreme Court and in two Whatcom County Superior Courts.

Two years ago, when the city’s early legal victories were reversed by Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Ira Uhrig, Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic said that “the city did make one important mistake in this situation... in order to help Mr. Douglas keep his project moving ahead, we allowed him to proceed before all of the necessary submittals and permits were secured. We were trying to be helpful. We will not make that mistake again.”

Douglas declined to comment because of stipulations in the agreement that neither party speak publicly to the issue.