IBA seeks speedy end to beach wall dispute

Citing newly discovered evidence, one party litigation against a Coupeville couple who are blocking a Greenbank public beach access with a wall told the Skagit County Superior Court May 17 that the case’s “facts are undisputed and the law is clear,” urging the court to decide the matter without a trial.

In its 26-page motion for summary judgment, the citizen advocacy group Island Beach Access contends that the new evidence “completely undermines earlier efforts” by the couple, Joanne and Alan Bruce Montgomery, “to create seeming issues of fact.”

The Montgomerys, in 2008, built a stone wall on land at the eastern end of Wonn Road, leading to a 2013 lawsuit by Island County and Island Beach Access claiming that the county, not the couple, owns that property. The Montgomerys were successful in having the lawsuit moved to Skagit County shortly thereafter, alleging that they couldn’t get a fair trial in Island County.

The new evidence consists of three items, Island Beach Access said:

• A March deposition of Alan Bruce Montgomery in which he said his comments supporting an earlier motion for summary judgment were unfounded and “simply wrong,” as they were based on misunderstood definitions.

• A letter from Bruce’s father disproving the Montgomerys’ claim that they believed in good faith that they own the contested land.

•The Montgomerys recent receipt of a $270,750 settlement in a lawsuit against their title insurance carrier. That represented their future anticipated loss of privacy when Island County is found to own the disputed land, so they can no longer show they’d be injured if the court found against them, Island Beach Access said.

Because of this new information, “the county and public are entitled to an order quieting title” — that is, declaring the disputed land’s true owner — “as a matter of law,” Island Beach Access concluded.

Motions for summary judgment filed shortly after the lawsuit began were dismissed because they were premature, not necessarily because they lacked merit, said Jane Seymour, an attorney representing Island Beach Access.

The Montgomerys have until approximately June 15 to file a response to the motion.

A hearing on the motion is scheduled for June 30. If the motion is denied, the matter will likely go to trial.

A jury trial is currently scheduled to start on Oct. 11. Before that, however, the Montgomerys could submit their own motion for summary judgment. 

Earlier this year, the Montgomerys offered to settle the lawsuit, but Island County’s Board of Commissioners declined to accept the settlement offer, an act that won acclaim from supporters of beach access on Whidbey Island.