Councilmember Bruce Harrell
FIRE STATION 6 RELOCATION TALKS STALLED
Councilmember Harrell Provokes Negotiations
SEATTLE- Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the City Council’s Energy and Technology Committee and vice-chair of Public Safety, Human Services, and Education Committee, agrees to step in as talks have stalled between the City and the Central Area Motivation Program (CAMP) concerning the site acquisition and construction schedule of Seattle’s Central District, Fire Station No. 6.
On April 10, 2008, the City of Seattle offered CAMP $1.5 million to purchase CAMP’s property at 2615 South Jackson Street in Seattle. The City had determined that CAMP’s site was suitable for the construction of the new Fire Station No. 6. The purchase price was based on what the City had determined was the current fair market value of the property, assuming it was free of environmental problems. The value was based on an appraisal completed by an independent certified appraiser.
Earlier, on December 17, 2007, the Seattle City Council passed Ordinance 122598, which gave the City authority to exercise its condemnation rights if a binding agreement was not reached between the City of Seattle and CAMP. While two weeks remain in the acquisition schedule, the parties have not come to an agreement within a time frame that allows the project to remain on schedule.
Because condemnation rights involve the “taking” of property for public use, the proceedings are often contentious given the fact that the landowner is not looking for their property to be condemned for public use—as is the case in this situation.
Founded in 1964, CAMP was one of Seattle’s first anti-poverty agencies. CAMP’s many programs include employment counseling, emergency food, housing and clothing services, an energy-assistance program, and child-care services.
Larry Williams, CAMP’s Executive Director, and CAMP’s Executive Board members welcome Councilmember Harrell’s offer to facilitate negotiations. Williams said, “As CAMP addresses the issues of the City’s purchase and possible use of eminent domain to acquire CAMP’s South Jackson Street property for Fire Station No. 6, we are pleased that Councilmember Harrell has agreed to facilitate a process that encourages a win-win resolution for CAMP and the City. We are confident that his deep ties to the City and our community will ensure that a constructive dialogue will occur where all interests are protected and, in particular, the individuals and families that are served by CAMP.”
Councilmember Harrell, a community volunteer and attorney by training, welcomes the opportunity to try and resolve a very difficult situation. “Over the decades, I have seen the positive impact CAMP has had on the lives of people less fortunate. I think most, if not all, of Seattle’s political leaders understand the role CAMP has played in our community,” Councilmember Harrell said. “As Fire Station 6 is potentially relocated to CAMP’s secondary location, it should not be at the expense of CAMP’s service delivery outcomes. Condemnation proceedings are hardly ever a preferred process by municipalities or real estate owners. I will do everything I can to facilitate an honest, open dialogue that, hopefully, resolves this situation efficiently and effectively.” Councilmember Harrell added, “Without exception, the key to a successful resolution is for one party to be able to examine the situation from the lens of the other. Many times, we are so caught up in our zeal to become advocates that we lose our ability to listen and commitment to understand.”
In 2003, voters approved a $167 million levy to renovate, in part, most of the city’s 33 fire stations. A Fire Department Study found that most of the City’s older stations were too small and unsuitable for modern fire equipment, built on land vulnerable to earthquake damage, or in critical need of repair.
Built in 1931, Station No. 6’s lot size and historical status limits the amount of renovation that can take place. For these reasons, expansion is regarded as impossible and a new location is needed.
City officials state that they have evaluated over three dozen sites beginning in 2004. The criteria were that the new site would have to be on stable land, have good street access, be close to or on an arterial road, and be in a location that keeps response times where they are now, or improves them.
Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis stated in a September 5, 2007, Seattle Post-Intelligencer article that “[t]he CAMP site is the best by far in meeting those criteria.”
The CAMP building is currently occupied by the Emergency Feeding Program of Seattle & King County and provides free meals to about 50,000 people countywide on an annual basis.
The City Council has authorized the City to acquire CAMP’s property for the project and City officials have agreed to help relocate the program.