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Why I voted to sell the Monte waterfront

There has been a lot of accusations and statements about the waterfront property sale and as a Montesano Councilmember who voted to approve the sale, I feel I should respond. No sale would have been possible without a review and vote from the council.

The discussion of the property came up in the Jan. 24, 2012, meeting and was discussed by the council. No action was taken at that meeting. The issue was brought up again at the Feb. 14, 2012, meeting and the majority of council agreed to surplus the property on Resolution 860. This action was reported in the Feb. 16, 2012 edition of The Vidette under the title “City votes to allow sale of riverfront property” on page A-9. During the March 13, 2012 meeting, the offers that were received were reviewed, discussed, and a decision was made by the majority of council to approve the sale. Two meetings later, a local blogger came into the April 10 2012 council meeting and, during public comment, made statements that he was against the sale, what he felt was lack of public notification, and would have offered more for the property. The claim of “offering more” has somehow spinned into a claim that the council and/or city administration rebuffed a higher offer, even though this comment was made a month after the sale.

Certainly, the price that was accepted was very low compared to the assessed value. As a councilmember, I compared the undeveloped buildable land (5.35 acres) versus the offer ($23,000). I also looked at the opportunity a local developer was going to do something with the property that I felt would benefit the community, that access to the river was part of the deal, and an additional 47 acres was added to the city tax rolls.

I do think that, looking back on this sale, the minimum requirement the city had to sell property is lacking. Certainly, more can be done and council should revisit those rules to set a higher minimum requirement. As The Vidette articles have shown, the public access was not enshrined in the deed. I’m glad this was brought to light now to fix this to ensure the public access.

No one is required to agree to the sale, but the fact is the discussion to surplus the property and the vote to accept an offer happened in a public meeting. No sale could have occurred without a majority vote of the council.

On a separate topic, I moved to Montesano with my family in December of 2006. We came here because we really liked the community and the small town feel. There was a certain character the area had that we liked. Montesano is filled with those born and raised here, and others who moved to this community, who all make this community great. Unfortunately, there seems to be people who are more vocal now that don’t take kindly to the fact there are “outsiders” in the city or involved in local politics. One of the things I knew before getting on council is there is always going to be someone who doesn’t like a decision or action. I didn’t consider that there would be people on social media who would now use the “they moved here” as an excuse to oppose someone. I’m not sure what will destroy the sense of community more than pushing this division of insiders versus outsiders.

As a councilmember, I’ve had a simple philosophy. People are entitled to my ear, just not my agreement. It signals a respect for the community and for the differences of opinions. Of course there is one opinion I have no respect for, that’s the one that outsiders/transplants/those who moved here are not welcomed or need to be driven out of town. Sure, you are entitled to that opinion, but I won’t agree to it and hope others won’t tolerate it either.

Chris Hutchings

Montesano City Councilman