Cityasked for $4 million in damages

Published on Thu, Apr 20, 2006 by ack Kintner & Meg Olson

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City asked for $4 million in damages

By Jack Kintner & Meg Olson

Bellingham developer Joel Douglas has slapped the city of Blaine with $4 million in damage claims for what Douglas said were damages stemming from two stop work orders on his Seascape condominium project the city issued last fall.

The claims were presented to city officials on April 10, five days after Blaine’s municipal judge and hearing examiner pro tem Mike Bobbink turned down Douglas’s second attempt to have the stop work orders declared invalid, according to documents made available by the city.
In response to the damage claims, city manager Gary Tomsic said “Normally we look at (damage claims) and then decide whether to turn them over to our insurer or just deny them, but I really don’t know yet what we’ll do.”

Douglas submitted two claims, $1 million for water damage resulting from a blocked surface drain and a second for $3 million in damages resulting from not being able to work on the first problem plus daily expenses of nearly $3,000 while work is halted.

In a related matter, Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic notified the Blaine City Council at their April 10 meeting of Douglas’ intent to appeal a March 23 hearing examiner’s decision to the council. The decision, re-affirmed on April 5, upheld the two stop work orders issued on Douglas’ Seascape project last fall as valid and legally binding.

“Under our code an appeal of an administrative decision goes to the hearing examiner and the decision of the hearing examiner can be appealed to city council,” Tomsic explained. Their review would be a closed record review, Tomsic added. “Your review will be based on the record as it currently exists. There will be no new evidence or testimony.”

The city council has up to 90 days to make a decision, during which time, Tomsic advised them, they may not discuss the matter publicly since they’ll be performing a quasi-judicial function in ruling on Douglas’ appeal. “Don’t discuss this with anybody, anywhere, including amongst ourselves,” said mayor Mike Myers.
The damage claims are not included in the appeal, just the question as to the validity of the two stop work orders.

Council member Bonnie Onyon asked how much evidence they would need to review and Blaine community development director Terry Galvin warned her to be prepared for a thick stack of paperwork. “A considerable amount of material was presented,” he said. ”It got out of hand.”

Hearings began on the two stop work orders in January under Blaine hearing examiner Roger Ellingson, but after being challenged by Douglas’ attorney he recused himself and was replaced in this case by Blaine’s municipal judge Mike Bobbink. Five more hearings followed before Bobbink published his decision on March 23. In response, both Douglas’ attorney and the city moved for reconsideration, and on April 5 a subsequent opinion was published that re-affirmed the validity of the stop work orders.

The city, in the same request for reconsideration, also asked the hearing examiner to find Douglas’ building permit invalid due to an irregularity in the way it was issued, citing precedent from a case in Issaquah.

Bobbink agreed with the city on this point and said so in his April 5 decision, but Douglas’ attorney, William Pardee, moved to delay the decision on the building permit, claiming that he was entitled to seven days in which to respond to the city’s contention. Bobbink agreed to give Pardee another week and at press time, both parties were waiting for Bobbink’s decision.

Meanwhile, the conditions which brought about the stop work orders have been satisfied to the extent that work has resumed at the site at 1300 Peace Portal Drive. “He’s complied with some things and other conditions will be met as a part of his occupancy permit,” said Tomsic.