FERNDALE - Officials from the city and Lummi Nation are back at the table, negotiating a complicated agreement over retail development on land the tribe owns in the south end of the city.
Talks stalled after the Lummis rejected a sales-tax sharing agreement passed by the Ferndale City Council on May 15. They were revived after the Lummis gave the city a counterproposal May 31.
The City Council on Monday, June 3, asked Mayor Gary Jensen and city Administrator Greg Young to resume talks that had been ongoing for about a year. The tribe and the city met on Thursday, June 6, Young said.
The Lummis and the city are still far from agreement on how to share the financial boon from future retail on land the tribe owns along Slater Road. Stores built along that corridor would become a significant source of sales-tax revenue.
"When you read the two agreements, you can certainly see how they diverge from each other," Young said. "Our first negotiations (on Thursday) had to do with concepts rather than specifics."
Council member Mel Hansen, who was briefed on the meeting, said there was no news to report.
"There was some progress, but it's probably going to involve a number of meetings on the administration's part," Hansen said. "I don't know that there will be an agreement or not. They're talking, let's put it that way."
The two sides agree on one point: The Lummis would get 25 percent of the tax Ferndale collects from sales on the currently undeveloped 25 acres on the southwest corner of Slater and Rural Avenue. The Lummis had a potential buyer for the property and were under a May 17 deadline to strike a deal with Ferndale. The tribe called off the sale on May 16 after rejecting the city's proposal.
The agreement implies that the buyer would build a large store on that corner, but the Lummis have been silent about who might buy the property and the status of sale negotiations since May 16. The agreement between the city and the tribe only happens if a sale goes through.
The tribe wants another slice of the sales-tax pie, a cut the city so far hasn't accepted: It wants half the sales tax from another block of properties, 21 acres on Slater between Rural and Interstate 5.
City officials speculate the Lummis want to develop a shopping district along I-5 south of Slater, similar to Quil Ceda Village outside Marysville.
"The Ferndale officials are welcome to speculate, however they are not the landowners," Lummi spokeswoman Julie Jefferson said in a May 16 email. "The Lummi Nation is the landowner and does not have any plans at this time."