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Trillium's Freeland property has new owners

This gate is an entrance to 780 acres of land off Bounty Loop Road, Freeland, that had been owned by Trillium Corp., Bellingham, and changed hands earlier this year. - Jennifer Conway
This gate is an entrance to 780 acres of land off Bounty Loop Road, Freeland, that had been owned by Trillium Corp., Bellingham, and changed hands earlier this year.
— image credit: Jennifer Conway

Two months after a massive logging property on South Whidbey with a price tag of $2.4 million was exchanged, no forecast has been made for the future of the 780 acres.

The property, situated between Smugglers Cove Road and Mutiny Bay Road in the Freeland and Greenbank areas, was formerly owned by Trillium Corporation in Bellingham. Trillium is one of Washington's largest forestry companies, and had listed the property for $2.4 million with Coldwell Banker Koetje Real Estate in Oak Harbor.

This week a spokesperson for the Trillium Corporation said the property had closed March 10 for $2 million to Charles Benbow and Donald Nolan of Northern California.

Benbow and Nolan, who were on Whidbey Island this week to explore their new property and the options of what to do with it said they did not buy the property, but had taken the land as a settlement in a lawsuit with Trillium Corp.

Benbow refused to elaborate on the lawsuit, but said the transfer settled claims the two had with Trillium.

"It was an amiable settlement," said Benbow.

Benbow and Nolan own three companies, according to Benbow, and sold the assets to Trillium. The companies -- Don Nolan Enterprises, Benbow Enterprises and Nolan-Benbow Inc. -- are in the trucking, road construction and timber industries, according to Benbow.

It is unclear what Nolan and Benbow intend to do with the 780 acres.

"We have no immediate plans," said Benbow. "We don't know what our plans are at the present."

One of their next steps is to have the 780 acres appraised, according to Benbow. He said the $2 million value had been placed by attorneys.

Presently the 780 acres are in a designated forest program, a state tax relief program that encourages owners to leave the property treed, according to Jan Graham, a program administrator for current use programs in Island County. She said benefits to the property owners to keep the property in the program include reduced taxes. Graham said there are several conditions to remaining in the state program, including upkeep and a timber management plan for the property.

Graham said Nolan and Benbow have several options. They can keep the property in the timber management plan, transfer it to an open timber plan, or simply remove it all together from state programs. She said if Nolan and Benbow were to remove or transfer the land from the state program, a portion of back taxes would be owed.

In an 2002 interview with The South Whidbey Record, Randy Bartelt, a forester with Trillium said, "Trillium is consolidating its land holdings by selling a number of scattered logging properties on Whidbey Island." He said it was no longer a priority for the company to hold onto lands like the property for reforestation and future harvest.

In 1988, the property was the site of controversy when Trillium clearcut the acreage. Protesters were unsuccessful after they gathered at the property and blocked an entrance to attempt to stop the logging of the woods.

John Chambers, the listing agent for the property with Coldwell Banker Oak Harbor, refused to comment for this story.

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