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Freeland group bids to save property
"A group of Freeland land investers intent on preventing a portion of the town's commercial property from being developed was the high bidder for 18.68 acres of prime commercial land on Scott Road during a public auction Saturday.The Freeland land was one of the properties up for bid at the auction, which took place at the Useless Bay Golf and Country Club. All the properties on the auction block were owned by South Whidbey builders Chris and Marina Kelly, who do business as Kelly Custom Homes and Chris Kelly Construction. The couple had the auctioneers dispose of four homes, two residential lots, the Scott Road property, and a year-old visitors center at Deception pass. As it turns out, the Scott Road property was the most sought after at the auction, even though the visitors center seemed to carry a higher profile into the event. Split into two 2.5-acre parcels, a 1.7-acre parcel, and a 12-acre parcel, the property was first auctioned off in pieces, garnering a total of $260,000. But then, the properties were offered for a second time as a package. During that bidding process, a group called the Friends of Freeland offered top dollar, pledging to pay $270,000 for the land. The bid was $30,000 lower than the initial asking price announced by the auctioneer.Friends member Herb Hunt said Monday that his group still must have their bid approved by the seller before it can take ownership. If the bid is approved, Hunt said, the Friends plan to turn it over to an appropriate body to make certain the land is not developed. A decision was expected late Wednesday afternoon, according to attorney Jane Seymour.Sandwiched between a retirement community development on Newman Road and a new strip mall development and two commercial buildings still under construction on Scott Road, the property is in the hottest development area on South Whidbey. Hunt said that since the planning effort in Freeland has yet to yield any results, the Friends wanted to do something to make sure the entire town was not lost to new construction. To secure the property at the auctions, Friends members collected donations for the purchase without calling much attention to themselves.This whole process has been extremely quiet, he said.In all, the auction netted $931,500 in bids for the 10 properties the Kellys offered. About 75 people attended the auction out of a pool of 300 people who made inquiries about the sale to the auction company, Auctions Incorporated.The Deception Pass Visitor Center, a tourism business on State Highway 20 adjacent to the entrance to Washington's busiest state park, was the first property sold. The log-style building, with 500 feet of highway frontage, has a gift shop and walk-in/drive-through espresso stand and has been open about a year. There was little interest in the commercial property, and auctioneer Errold Sutter had some difficulty getting an opening bid. He began asking for $800,000, then came down in three steps to $400,000 before a bidder offered $200,000. It was the only bid offered.A house under construction at 2724 San Juan in Coupeville generated the most heated bidding. The 1,476-square-foot house has two bedrooms and one and three-quarter baths. Bidding opened at $50,000 and quickly progressed to $85,000, where it slowed to increments of $1,000 or $2,000. Two persistent couples continued the bidding until one gave in and let the other take it for $120,000.A vacant residential lot in the Sierra Subdivision in Coupeville at Ebey Road and Balboa, adjacent to the house that was so hotly contested, sold for $16,000. Next on the auction block were two new houses on Columbia Avenue in Clinton, which were put up for bid together as a bidder's choice. The two-bedroom houses, each with about 2,500 square feet, are at 7023 and 7029 Columbia Ave. Bidding on the first started at $100,000. One sold for $200,000 and the other for $199,000.A house and a view lot along the Holmes Harbor Golf Course were late additions to the auction. The house, a two-bedroom 1,412-square-foot structure at 4847 Reindeer Road, attracted a high bid of $101,000. The lot, at the end of Castlewood Court, a cul-de-sac, went for $25,500.The high bids on each parcel will be considered by the seller and will either be accepted or rejected by 5 p.m. Wednesday, three business days after the auction, Seymour said. "