The recent uproar over the Tift Haus in North Bend has been interesting to say the least. Rumors and innuendoes are flying and at least two parties have written letters published on our opinion page about the subject.
But let’s give a little background and look at what is important to the community as a whole and to the owners of the Tift Haus.
The Tift Haus has been a mainstay in North Bend for years. I remember as a kid, sitting with my dad having lunch with his state patrol buddies and watching the I-90 traffic go by. The place always was busy and the pancakes were amazing. It was pretty common to see the entire North Bend detachment of the Washington State Patrol at the Tift Haus at lunchtime with all the cars backed in across the front.
Who would have known then that the area in which they were parking would become such a controversial topic in the North Bend business community?
Here’s the deal from an observer’s perspective. There is approximately 40 feet of right of way in front of the Tift Haus, owned by the city of North Bend, on which the building and sign encroaches. Who knows why, but in today’s world of real estate a clear title is pretty important. The city has set a precedent in the past of selling encroachments on North Bend Way to affected property owners with the property right next door, the Tesoro station, going through this process several years ago. It made sense then and still makes sense today.
The North Bend City Council, with three council members having some level of involvement in the process, has decided to delay a decision until the last minute – all within the boundaries of the law – and research their options for the property, which they have the right to do.
The owners of the Tift Haus want to sell their business and enjoy their retirement, which is the case with many small business owners who’ve worked so hard through the years. They have a buyer who is willing to pay their asking price if the encroachment problems can be fixed.
The council is prudent in having a hearing to discuss the issue and get public opinion, but they should have moved much more quickly to render a decision so the Tift Haus owners can have closure and retire. The council’s unwarranted slowness has put a business owner’s investment and retirement on hold and possibly in jeopardy. I urge the council to render its decision quickly after the June 29 hearing and vote in favor of the property owners. Anything less is directly impacting, for no reason, the livelihood of a Valley business owner and their family. This is unreasonable and should be cause for alarm for business owners and residents of North Bend as it clearly shows a lack of concern by the council for their constituency.
Two council members, David Cook and Chris Garcia, have recused themselves from the proceedings because both have direct involvement in the transaction with Garcia making the offer and Cook handling the transaction.
In fairness, Councilman Mark Sollitto also should recuse himself. Why is this relevant? Well, at one time Dale and Susan Sherman had made an offer on the property as stated in a recent letter to the editor. Susan Sherman was, during his campaign, campaign co-chair for Sollitto, along with then-mayor Joan Simpson. The Shermans have stated they no longer have any interest in the property but, in the appearance of fairness, Councilman Sollitto should recuse himself.
Myself and many members of the community urge the two remaining council members, Karen Tavenner and Bill Wittress, to put any personal vendettas aside and do the right thing, which is to allow a small business owner to retire with their investment of blood, sweat and tears intact. Many of your constituents are watching and this would be a great step toward peace in the council and in the community. Regardless of personal likes or dislikes, voting in favor of selling the property to the Tift Haus owners for fair market value is the right thing to do.
So what happens if Councilman Sollitto does the right thing and recuses himself? Then the entire council, regardless of personal involvement, is brought back to the table for the vote because of a lack of quorum.
I urge everyone who wants to see the council do the right thing and attend the public hearing on June 29 at 7:30 p.m. at the Mount Si Senior Center and voice your support for the sale of the property. Let’s start working together for the betterment of the community – a family’s investment is at stake.