Hospital board to consider Bayview property sale

A proposal to sell a 4.5-acre Bayview property purchased in 2007 for nearly $2 million would likely result in a financial loss for Whidbey General Hospital, a commissioner said Thursday.

According to Anne Tarrant, president of the board, the sale of the property is not a foregone conclusion as the commissioners have yet to make a decision, but she acknowledged that if the board does proceed it would be a hit to hospital coffers.

Island County property records list the value of the land at $618,000 at the time of the sale — a $1.36 million difference from the purchase price — and at $595,890 in 2013.

Tarrant believes a private appraisal will exceed the county’s estimate, but will not be enough to recover the hospital’s initial investment.

“I anticipate it [the property] will not sell for $1.9 million,” she said. “But what that number will ultimately be I’m not certain, should we decide to sell.”

The board has scheduled a public hearing at 9 a.m. Monday, April 14, to consider selling the undeveloped property in Bayview, which is located across Highway 525 from The Goose Grocery.

Purchased in 2007 from Verlane Gabelein, it was slated as the future site of a new South Whidbey hospital clinic, which was to replace the South Whidbey Rural Health Clinic in Clinton.

The hospital also bought in 2007 a $380,000 parcel from Goosefoot that abuts the park-and-ride lot at Bayview Road and Highway 525. It now houses the hospital’s emergency medical services station.

More centrally located, the idea for the new clinic was to expand access to outpatient services on the South End, according to Trish Rose, hospital spokeswoman.

“Our plan was derailed when our ability to access revenue bonds disappeared during the 2008 economic downturn,” said Rose, in a Thursday email to The Record. “We also learned that because of changes to laws affecting Critical Access hospitals, the outpatient services we hoped to provide at the clinic would not be reimbursed at a rate that could sustain those services.”

For those reasons, the development plans were put on “indefinite hold,” Rose wrote.

Tarrant did say, however, the hospital is still interested in building a larger South Whidbey clinic, but the current board doesn’t see the Bayview property as “viable” and it is a poor fit with the hospital’s existing strategic plan. One reason, she said, is it lacks good access to the bus line on Highway 525.

It is one of three properties the board identified for possible sale. One, a house in Oak Harbor bequeathed to the hospital, is already sold and the third is the site of the old emergency medical services property located in Freeland next to Skagit Farmers Supply.

Tarrant reiterated, however, that selling the Bayview property isn’t a sure thing and that the commissioners are seeking feedback from the community.

“We haven’t made a determination yet on whether to sell the property,” Tarrant said. “We’d like to get some input from the public first.”

As for the wide gulf between the county’s assessed value of the property in 2007 and the purchase price, the circumstances remain unclear. None of the current commissioners were on the board at the time, and the hospital also has a different chief executive officer and chief financial officer.

In her email, Rose said, “ ... in some markets, a disparity exists between assessed valuation and market value, but since executive sessions do not produce minutes or notes, we have no record or knowledge of the reasoning used in setting the property purchase price.”

While the prior board’s reasons remain a mystery to existing commissioners, Tarrant said she is hopeful private appraisal numbers presented at the April 14 meeting will spell good news.


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