Decision a loss for all

Letter to the Editor

Apparently the North Bend City Council members who voted on the Tift Haus right of way encroachment issue last month don’t think the meeting went very well. I’d have to agree.

About 70 people showed up for the meeting to share their views and hear what possible reasons there could be not to vacate the property. The council took the maximum allowed by law, 60 days, to research the issue. Unfortunately, from where I was sitting they came to the table with more questions than answers, more insults than insight and at the end of the day, did the least they could do and still hold their heads up at all.

The vast majority of those present that night supported the vacation of the right of way and the sale to the current owners of the Tift Haus. Three people spoke in opposition to the vacation and it has been implied that those with opposing views were intimidated. No one’s safety was compromised. If lack of applause is intimidating, then yes, I guess that happened. The three that spoke in opposition were free to share their views. Keep in mind, two of them were not North Bend residents and one left the podium asking the crowd, “What, no applause for me?” He was not intimidated or heckled. If anyone else failed to come forward for fear of lack of applause, I’m sad to hear it. It’s a tough world and you have to truly fight for what you believe in.

So, back to the council meeting … council member Tavenner said that since 4,700 North Bend residents were not present at the meeting, the standing-room only crowd that did show up did not represent an accurate picture of how the council should act on behalf of the citizens of North Bend. Honestly, it went downhill from there.

Council members were upset with the city administration for not spending nearly $6,000 of our tax dollars to survey other North Bend right of way encroachments (which have nothing to do with the Tift Haus encroachment). Council members Garcia and Cook (who recused themselves due to financial interest in the sale) were accused of getting a “windfall” from the city by Councilman Wittress. A windfall would imply someone being given something for nothing. The current owners intended to buy it at full market value. Finally, and unbelievably, after 60 days, Tavenner still had a question about where the middle of the road is – literally!

Council members Sollitto, Wittress and Tavenner did the very least they could have done to resolve this issue. They offered a line 5-feet deep and 100-feet wide to the Tift Haus owners so they can hopefully clear title and sell their property. It also sounds like their decision led to the retraction of the current offer on the table, which is a bonus for them. How awesome it must feel to be able to oust the buyers (Jim Westlake and Chris Garcia) and agent (David Cook) that you have a vendetta against and still look like the good guys because you salvaged an old couple’s retirement? Isn’t that the best of both worlds?

I personally think it’s a low blow. I am disappointed that the members of the City Council allowed to vote on this issue would use their city “muscle” to perpetuate their own agenda and claim that they are doing it on behalf of all the citizens of North Bend.

I, for one, hope to see something pretty special done with the land in front of the Tift Haus. Some of the opponents of selling the land to the Tift Haus owners asked the city to beautify that land with islands, trees and a sidewalk to create a gateway into downtown. Who wouldn’t want that? But with what money? That’s not how I would prefer my tax dollars to be spent. Do you want your tax money used to fund a project that could have been funded by private business? In my opinion, a win for all would have been selling the 40-by-100-foot encroachment to the Tift Haus owners with a caveat that they or any prospective buyers put in a sidewalk and some nice trees.

Instead, the council has burned yet another bridge with business owners in town, both current and prospective. They have lessened the opportunities for a new restaurant in the Tift Haus location and of filling the growing number of empty storefronts in our town today. Who would want to do business in our town when it is made so hard to do? This, my friends, is a lose-lose for all.

Anne Stedman

North Bend