SeaTac Councilman Tony Anderson, center, watches as Rick Forschler and Pam Fernald sign official papers to assume their seats on the SeaTac City Council. In the background, City Clerk Kristina Gregg removes Chris Wythe's nameplate. Wythe left the council Tuesday after not seeking re-election.
SeaTac poised to rescind controversial condemnation action
SeaTac lawmakers are on the verge of rescinding a controversial condemnation proceeding against a surface parking lot next to the airport light-rail station.
The local action had received national and regional attention from property rights advocates.
Former Mayor Ralph Shape blocked an attempt by Deputy Mayor Gene Fisher to rescind the eminent domain action at the end of a four-hour regular council meeting. The lawmakers also had met in a 1-1/2 hour executive session before the meeting.
Shortly after 11 p.m., Fisher introduced the resolution that would have rescinded the condemnation proceeding against the Dollar parking facility owned by James and Doris Cassan. The action is contingent on the Cassans dropping a lawsuit against the city.
Fisher said the city could reintroduce the condemnation if negotiations failed between SeaTac and the Cassans.
SeaTac officials say they want to locate a parking garage on the Cassans' property to serve patrons of a downtown/entertainment district next to the new light-rail station.
The Cassans have submitted proposals for a mixed-use development on the property.
The Cassans also mounted a large public campaign to get the condemnation action overturned. They hired Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's public relations firm, took out full-page ads in the Highline Times and enlisted the help of property-rights groups such as the Evergreen Freedom Foundation and the Institute for Justice. The Cassans' attorney, John Houlihan, also spoke extensively at council meetings.
Several council members, including ones who were not on the council when the condemnation action was passed or voted against it, indicated they had received profane e-mails from condemnation opponents.
Houlihan said the Cassans did not condone inappropriate e-mails.
After Fisher introduced his resolution on Tuesday night, Shape submitted an amendment that based the rescinding on the property owners submitting a proposal "consistent with the city's vision."
The amendment died for lack of a second and Shape asked to make a statement.
Shape said the council was bending to pressure from a media campaign "fraught with deceptions and lies.
"I guess if you pay for an ad, you can say whatever you want," Shape declared.
He sarcastically thanked the Cassans for contributing to the local economy by buying ads in the Highline Times and making large campaign contributions in the recent council elections.
Shape said the Times ads urged people to call him and gave his phone number. He said he did not receive a single phone call from the ad. Either people do not read the paper or they rejected the ad's message, according to Shape.
"I think it is the latter, because the Highline Times is important to the community," Shape added.
Fisher said rescinding the eminent domain action would help "get things straightened out" and "be a show of good faith."
Just before the vote, Shape called for the action to be held off for two weeks until the next council meeting. The next meeting is Jan. 26, when the condemnation action is expected to be rescinded.
The council also voted to continue a moratorium on development permits in the proposed downtown/ entertainment district until May 15. Lawmakers could rescind the moratorium at any time. They could also extend it after May.
Fisher said continuing the moratorium until May would give an ad hoc committee, to be co chaired by he and Shape, time to advise lawmakers on proposed zoning changes.
Earlier in the meeting, lawmakers selected Councilwoman Terry Anderson as mayor and Fisher as deputy mayor.
Anderson is the only original lawmaker left on the council from when SeaTac incorporated. Fischer has served as deputy mayor the past two years.
Rick Forschler and Pam Fernald, who were elected to the council in November, along with Tony Anderson, who was re-elected, were sworn in. Forschler replaced Chris Wythe, who had supported the original condemnation action. Fernald replaced Barry Ladenburg, who had been appointed to replace the late Joe Brennan.