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Dredging dispute spurs harassment
Anonymous letters, slashed tires and property destruction are some of the things that a few Lagoon Point residents say they have suffered for speaking out.
Three families in the Greenbank community have allegedly been harassed because they oppose a plan that would allow a portion of the property owners to avoid paying for the cleaning of a community waterway.
The community waterway allows Lagoon Point landowners and guests to access Puget Sound. To pay for the cleaning, landowners would have paid a new yearly fee to the Lagoon Point Improvement Club, or LPIC.
Because the waterway has not been dredged in 10 years, enough silt has accumulated to make access impossible for some boats at very low tide.
But some of the approximately 360 property owners in the LPIC do not want to pay to dredge the waterway, and have allegedly been harassing five or six of the property owners who have been working to spread the costs equally among everyone.
John Mott, a former president of the LPIC, said the latest incident of harassment were anonymous envelopes sent to him and his wife Hilde and fellow Lagoon Point residents Bert and Beverly Pack and Steve, a former LPIC president, and Janet Bondelid on Sept. 18. Mott said Steve Bondelid opened the envelopes to find gummy grapes and a note reading Here are some sour grapes for you. The Bondelids did not return a call for comment.
Mott has not opened the envelope he received, while Bert Pack said his wife threw the note away without opening it. But Mott has filed the letter, along with detailed records of letters and legal documents connected too the rift over dredging the waterway.
Mott said the letters were in response to an article in the Sept. 11 South Whidbey Record in which Bert Pack explained why Lagoon Point residents should pay equally for the dredging and what some members of Lagoon Point have done to further this goal. Letters to the editor authored by the Motts and Steve Bondelid were also printed in a later edition.
The article came out two moths after the community voted on the dredging issue, when much of the physical harassment allegedly occurred.
At that time, Mott said, the tires on the Bondelids vehicles were slashed by scissors two separate times, and they sustained about $3,000 in damages to signs at his dock and home. Mott said that around the same time he found a piece of metal stuck into his gravel driveway. He said there is no evidence of who did the damage.
This issue has become pretty uncomfortable, Mott said. Its just getting uglier and uglier.
Bert Pack and Alex Maxwell, another former president of the LPIC, said that while they have not been the victims of any vandalism of this type, there have been some changes in some peoples attitudes toward them.
Island County Sheriffs spokesperson Jan Smith said her office received a call from Hilde Mott about the sour grapes-laden note. Smith said one action open to those who feel harassed is obtaining a civil anti-harrasment order.
Another avenue available is using a dispute resolution center, Smith said. She said Whidbey Island residents who were trained at the center could get all parties involved in the conflict together to work out the issues.
Mott said he has also contacted the FBI about the letter. He said the FBI is not pursuing the case active because the letter did threaten violence. But Mott said the case remains open and an agent remains active with the case.
The letters and physical harassment were just the latest incident, Mott said. While serving as LPIC president in 2002, he said he was verbally attacked in a meeting. That same year, he said a letter was sent out which claimed the LPIC acted dishonestly and illegally. He said two community members threatened him on his property and he and his wife, Hilde, received late-night harassing phone calls and letters. So in August 2002, Mott said he and Hilde resigned from LPIC.
This July, Mott said the harassing phone calls began again when a petition signed by 55 LPIC members led to a ballot sent out to the community to allow them to vote on waterway maintenance. Maxwell said he received harassing phone calls while president as well.