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Couple puts $250K on the table to stop Port of South Whidbey's cell tower

A special meeting of the Port of South Whidbey commissioners has been called to mull over a surprise property bid that would scuttle a cellular tower — the idea of which is despised by some neighbors — near the top of the Dorothy Cleveland Trail at the port’s Possession Beach Waterfront Park.

The port is negotiating with AT&T to lease the land in question for a cell tower, and has budgeted a $1,200 monthly income in 2013 from the lease.

However, the lease agreement, while long in the works, is not complete. “We haven’t got a lease for the cell tower,” Port President Curt Gordon acknowledged Thursday.

Freeland real estate agent Charlene Arnold, representing Marcia and Clyde Monma, presented a copy of a property purchase proposal to each of the three commissioners at Tuesday’s meeting. The offer, according to an email circulated by the Monmas, who live on Lupine Lane, Clinton, is for $250,000 to “purchase the Port of South Whidbey parklands, the Dorothy Cleveland Trail Park, to preserve it forever as a public-use park.”

The cell tower has been an emotional issue for a couple of years, but despite local opposition the commissioners have continued to pursue an agreement with AT&T.

The Monmas describe the commissioners’ history with the issue as a “stubborn refusal to do the right thing,” and estimated there’s only a 50/50 chance the commissioners will accept their offer.

“Only public pressure will force them to finally agree to an arrangement suitable for all parties,” the Monmas wrote.

“This could be our last, best chance to block the POSW (Port of South Whidbey) and AT&T,” the Monmas wrote.

Gordon said several of the Monmas’ supporters attended the meeting Tuesday but the couple themselves were represented by Arnold, a realtor.

While not rejecting the offer out-of-hand, Gordon was concerned about the $250,000 proposal. He said it is for two parcels of land totaling about 20 acres running to near the end of the parking lot for the park’s boat ramp.

The upper portion has already been surplussed, he said, and the appraisal on that alone came in at $250,000.

Commissioner Chris Jerome, emphasizing he was speaking only for himself, not the port, sent an email Friday about the Monma’ proposal, and was particularly concerned about the lower portion.

“The land they have offered to purchase is not for sale, and even if the port wanted to sell it, we could not legally do so without a lengthy public process,” he wrote.

Jerome added that in his opinion, the proposed cell tower would have “minimal impact on the trail or the uplands around it,” and said the port will maintain the area for hikers while receiving “much-needed revenue” from the cell tower lease.

The Monmas asked for a response by Dec. 12, so the commissioners set a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 4, in the port office, located beneath the China City restaurant in Freeland.

It’s not the only item on the agenda. Among other subjects to be discussed are permits for the Langley Harbor project, progress with a FEMA grant and the comprehensive plan.

 

 

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