Thompson Road property finds buyer for $47,000 loss

South Whidbey Fire/EMS is considering an offer for its 19.3-acre Thompson Road property at a $47,000 loss.

District commissioners are expected to hear an update on their accepted counteroffer to sell the property for $189,000 on Thursday at their regular meeting. The district purchased the two adjoining 9.3 and 10-acre parcels in 2001 for $236,000.

“They bought it during the high period when real estate was good on the island, just like everyone else did,” Chief Rusty Palmer said. “The market just isn’t there anymore.”

Losing $47,000 of public money through the pending sale was not taken lightly by the South Whidbey Fire/EMS board chairman.

“It is a distressing thing,” said Commissioner Kenon Simmons, chairman of the fire commissioners. “It’s something that we’ve talked about the benefits and cons of selling it at this point.”

Simmons declined to discuss why the commissioners are willing to let go of the property at a loss until it’s successfully sold, though he maintains those reasons are good ones.

“There’s definitely reasons why now is a good time,” Simmons said. “But the sensitivity of us having a sale pending on this thing, I’d like to see it go through first.”

Ten years after the purchase, the district tried to sell the properties once residents around the proposed location objected to it and the district reconsidered the ease of access to the highway for its emergency response vehicles.

“Really, that’s what made it less desirable,” Palmer said. “We want to do what we do for fire protection, but we also want to be good neighbors.”

After a year on the market, the district pulled the Thompson Road property to keep the value from plummeting. Last October, Palmer was advised by the district’s Coldwell Banker real estate agent, Christina Parker, also a volunteer emergency medical technician and firefighter for South Whidbey, to test the market. Palmer said there was no concern about a conflict of interest in having a district volunteer handle the transaction.

Also since then, the district has scaled back its plan for the new Bayview-area combined central office and fire station. Essentially, the district is looking at building the fire station adjacent to Bayview Road with the administrative offices above it, leaving plenty of room for a future training facility elsewhere on the 4.5-acre lot.

One of the benefits of the Thompson Road location was its seclusion, which meant there was little chance of it being an eyesore to passing motorists. The new location between the Bayview School and Good Cheer Food Bank, however, is a main thoroughfare with the Bayview Cash Store across the street.

“Our goal is to make it a really nice place,” Palmer said. “My direction to the architects is we want to fit into the neighborhood. It’s not going to be a chrome-and-glass monolith in a rural area.”

Other than some liability insurance and an annual timber tax of about $40 for the property, South Whidbey Fire/EMS has no expenses for the Thompson lot. But keeping the property longer to see if its value would rebound closer to its original purchase price was not an option. Palmer said the advice he received, and with which the commissioners agreed, was that it could take several more decades for the land to creep up to its purchase price.

“They convinced us that properties were never going to get back to where they were,” Palmer said of the district’s real estate agents. “If you’re willing to wait 30, 40, 50 years, it might get back up there.”


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