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Bellingham taking Aloha Motel condemnation to court after owners don’t accept $1.3M offer

The front of the Aloha Motel on Monday, Sept. 22, 2014 located at 315 N. Samish Way in Bellingham. The city of Bellingham is pursuing condemning the blighted property. "The Aloha has had many crime and drug issues, as have several hotels in the area," Police Chief Cliff Cook said. "We will continue to prioritize resources into the area until the environment changes."
The front of the Aloha Motel on Monday, Sept. 22, 2014 located at 315 N. Samish Way in Bellingham. The city of Bellingham is pursuing condemning the blighted property. "The Aloha has had many crime and drug issues, as have several hotels in the area," Police Chief Cliff Cook said. "We will continue to prioritize resources into the area until the environment changes." THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

A Whatcom County Superior Court judge could weigh in on condemnation of the Aloha Motel after the motel’s owners did not respond to the city’s $1.3 million offer to buy the property.

In late October, City Council named the Samish Way motel, which has gained a reputation as a hub for illegal activity, a blight on the surrounding neighborhood and directed staff to start condemnation proceedings.

The motel had 153 police reports between October 2013 and October 2014, more than any other motel in the area, city data show.

Additionally, the Whatcom County Health Department has condemned 11 of the motel’s 28 rooms in recent months after they tested positive for methamphetamine contamination.

On Nov. 13, the city offered Aloha owners Sang and Mi Yi $1,381,120 for the property, located at 301 and 315 N. Samish Way, said Tara Sundin, community and economic development manager.

That’s about $20 per square foot, the low end of the city’s fair market value appraisal of $20 to $22 per square foot, Sundin said. Cash from the Low Income Housing Fund would be used to pay for the site.

The owners had until Nov. 28 to respond. At the owners’ request, the city granted an extra week to consider the deal, but the owners did not take the city up on the offer by the extended deadline of Dec. 5, Sundin said.

“They did not reject the offer, but they didn’t accept it,” Sundin said.

County assessor’s records show the two purchased the property for $1.4 million in 2007.

Without getting a deal signed out of court, city attorneys took the next step and filed the case in superior court Monday, Dec. 15.

The city asked the court to determine if the property is being acquired for public use, then set a trial to determine fair compensation for the owners and eventually turn the land over to the city.

Earlier this year, the sites of a Shell gas station and a former Black Angus restaurant just down the way from the motel sold for about $35 per square foot, according to assessor’s records. The lots are being converted into a Walgreens pharmacy, a commercial building and a parking lot.

Commercial real estate broker Brian Finnegan, president of WestCom Properties Inc., said he thought the city’s offer sounded like it was probably in line with the market in that area.

“It might be a touch on the low side, but I think you could make an argument it’s a good price,” Finnegan said.

A lawyer for the owners did not return calls seeking comment on the matter.

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