From: {sherilyn wells} Message-ID: Date: Fri, 14 Jan 2000 17:15:12 EST Subject: Re: The Final Set of Questions and Answers to this "hot" issue To: Marian; Would you post the entire thing on your website, please? Thanks again!

The following is presented unedited in content, only formatting and linespacing.
Marian Beddill


SHERILYN WELLS makes the following true and correct statements:
I affirm that the following Question and Answer (Q and A) memorandum is, to the best of my knowledge, truthful and accurate.

Q and A re Sherilyn Wells selling her watershed property

1. Are you selling property that you own in the Lake Whatcom Watershed?
2. Why?
My family is moving to North Carolina to be close to my father, who experienced a significant decline in his physical condition in 1999. To the best of our knowledge, the move will be permanent. We checked into prices of comparable homes in the area where we will be relocating and found that we must sell not just our house, but all the property we own in Whatcom County, in order to be able to take out a mortgage in our new community with a monthly payment equivalent to what we have been paying here.
3. What is the zoning on your property?
Urban Residential 3, which means three homes per acre.
4. How large is your property?
Approximately 3.4 acres.
5. How many homes are allowed by the zoning?
The realtor has told us that ten homes are allowed by the zoning. We were originally told that eleven homes could be built when we bought the property in 1990.
6. So someone can now buy the property and build at least ten homes on it?
No, not at this time. Only one home can be built on our 3.4 acres.
7. Why?
Because the Whatcom County Code, Title 20.20.252, requires sewer to develop property zoned UR3 at the underlying density. If you don't have sewer, you are restricted to one home per 5 acres.
8. Why is there no sewer to the property?
Two reasons...
First, because the sewer district in the watershed must build another sewer interceptor if additional properties are to receive sewer service: apparently, all the hookup commitments allowed for the existing interceptor have been made.
Second, because I (and the Clean Water Alliance) just won an appeal (#99-2-00409-7) in Skagit County Superior Court, overturning Whatcom County's decision to grant a permit for construction of that second sewer interceptor.
That second interceptor would serve 60% of the remaining development potential in the watershed, almost all of it at urban densities.
9. So you, in effect, won a court decision that reduces the development potential of your own property, which you currently have for sale?
Yes. And I'm also defending the judge's decision during a contentious round of Motions for Reconsideration, in addition to asking the judge to make her decision even stronger in defense of the public interest.
10. Doesn't that judge's decision reduce the amount of money you could get for your land?
Absolutely, if the number of developable lots equates to the profit we could make.
11. Are there any other court cases in which you are involved that affect your property's development potential?
Yes, at least two cases in the Court of Appeals could affect my property's development potential, if I prevail.
The first case is my appeal of Judge Moynihan's decision to lift the Order of Invalidity which the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board imposed. That order of invalidity found that any zoning designation in the watershed which allowed more density than 1 home per 5 acres was illegal. If we prevail, the Order of Invalidity will be in effect again (and may never have been lifted). That means that developing my property at any level above one home will be illegal.
The second case involves my appeal to impose a moratorium on all development in the Lake Whatcom watershed, pending a comprehensive analysis of the public health risks from watershed activities. I must first get the case reinstated in superior court, where I will then argue the substance of that appeal.
12. Why does the listing for your property talk about ten developable lots and about "septic now - sewer later"?
At the time that we had our interview with the realtor re listing the property, we didn't have the judge's decision on the sewer interceptor appeal. I didn't know if we would prevail or not, which affects how many buildable lots there are, so we just indicated how the land is platted. Our realtor has said that, when interested parties contact her, she will update them on the reduced developability of the land.
The "septic now - sewer later" comment is disclosure which lets a buyer know that if they build that one home with a septic system, they could later be required to abandon their septic system and hook up to the interceptor (if we subsequently lose our legal fight to stop the sewer interceptor).
13. What have you done with the property since you bought it in 1990?
14. Was there ever a time in the past that you needed the proceeds you could have gotten from selling or developing the land?
I needed money for college tuition when my oldest daughter graduated from high school. She eventually had to win a scholarship in order to attend the college of her choice.
I needed to pay my very large outstanding bill for attorney's fees for my successful court case in which we stopped Water District No. 10's proposal to build a second shoreline sewer interceptor because it would have violated the Shorelines Management Act.
I needed to pay my outstanding bill for the attorney fighting the growth management appeal in Skagit County (presently on hold, pending the Court of Appeals decision). This is another appeal which asks for the development moratorium around Lake Whatcom, in addition to trying to protect farmland and Cherry Point fisheries.
15. But you didn't try to sell or develop the land yourself, despite having these expenses and bills, until you found that you had to move to the other side of the country?
Correct. It was not until we found that we couldn't afford the payments for a home in our new community unless we sold everything we own in Whatcom County, that we realized we would finally have to sell our land. It was a very difficult decision.
16. You knew, as of July 1999, that you would be moving to North Carolina to be with your parents. Why did you wait so long to list your watershed property for sale?
I held off listing our “development property” until after the election in November, 1999, in the hope that Bellingham’s Proposition No. One (to begin buying land in the watershed) would be approved and our property could be placed in public ownership.
17. Are there any other expenses, other than those mentioned in paragraph 14, that you may have to shoulder?
There is a possibility that I may be liable for attorneys' fees if I lose any of my Court of Appeals cases. Simply because the cases are so large (so many attorneys are involved on the opposite side), that could add up to a very large amount of money.
18. Why is your property listed for sale at $250,000.00?
About ten years ago, a neighboring parcel of almost exactly the same size sold for that amount of money - thus it was the closest "comparable," which is how estimates of value are made. Also see paragraph 20.
19. But your property, because of your legal appeals, can't be developed at the same level as the neighboring property.
True. If anyone will pay the $250,000.00 asking price, I have been told that I am obligated to accept their offer without conditions. However, if someone approaches me with a lower offer because my property is presently less developable (thanks to my legal work), I can negotiate an agreement, in return for a lower price, that includes conditions to protect the trees and other natural features of the land.
20. Why not just price the land at a lower price to begin with?
There is a lot of valuable timber on the land. If the asking price for the lot is set closer to the price of the timber, it would be advantageous for someone to buy the property, clearcut it to recover their costs, then turn around and sell the denuded land to someone else. Even if only one home could still be built, a 3.4 acre lot would presumably command at least $75,000 (if 1/3 acre lots are going for $30,000). That means that, if I initially ask for a lower price, someone could pocket a quick $75,000+ profit while deforesting more watershed land.
In the alternative, I can start with a higher price, then attach conditions to protect trees and water if someone wants to negotiate a lower price with me.
21. Do you still have personal legal debts incurred when you fought legal battles on behalf of the public interest?
Yes, even though I estimate that I've spent about $50,000.00 (of money that was originally to go to my children's college costs) on environmental and growth management work since coming to Whatcom County, I am still personally responsible for over $26,000.00 in outstanding legal bills. And, as I mentioned before, if I lose in the Court of Appeals and am required to pay any attorneys' fees, that figure could grow much larger. In the past, I have had a lien placed on my house (removed when we prevailed on appeal), so I expect that that could be done again. Those are the main reasons why I must sell my property above a certain price.
22. Why not just place a very restrictive covenant on the property yourself?
Two reasons....
First, an interested buyer may have a proposal that is different from my idea of how the land should be protected, but which would offer equivalent protection. I don’t want to foreclose someone from being able to buy the property because I’ve locked in my idea of adequate protection as the only way of protecting the watershed. One example would be if we received two equivalent offers in terms of price, one of which promises no development and limited, selective logging, the other which offers one home (which of course involves some site clearcutting) and no other logging. I would need to investigate both those options before I made up my mind.
Second, if I ultimately lose my court battles to protect the watershed, I could be personally liable for more costs (as mentioned before). If I lost, it would also mean that the watershed was legally developable again. Under that worst case scenario, in which my family becomes liable for many tens of thousands of dollars of attorney fees and other costs as a result of having almost singlehandedly, at times, tried to protect a community’s reservoir, I have to have a way of paying that debt. At that point I would have reached my personal limit on how much I can sacrifice on behalf of this community.
23. What will you do about your legal appeals when you move?
As long as I own watershed property in Whatcom, I have legal standing to appeal decisions that affect my property. If my property did not sell, I would use my legal standing to continue personal appeals to protect Lake Whatcom, even if I was living in an apartment in North Carolina. If my property does sell, I cannot appeal any new actions personally, but I have told the Clean Water Alliance that I would do legal research and draft legal pleadings for them to give to an attorney.
24. Have you ever been paid for your work re Lake Whatcom or growth management?
Never. Since 1990, I estimate that I have donated at least 14,000-15,000 volunteer hours to environmental work. I missed four out of the last five family vacations in order to keep working on the issues, primarily involving legal appeals.
25. Did Phil Sharpe contact you before he wrote the letter in Whatcom Watch, in order to verify his assumptions?
26. Did Roger Almskaar contact you before he made public comments about you selling this land?
27. Did Mark Lambert of the Building Industry Association contact you before he made public comments about you selling this land?
The foregoing is true and correct and given under penalty of perjury in and for the State of Washington.

DATED this 14th day of January, 2000, at Bellingham, WA.

Sherilyn Wells
1020 Geneva St.
Bellingham, WA 98226

If my primary interest was in recouping my investment, here are two strategies that make some sense:

The Profit Maximization Strategy
Stop all lawsuits which reduce development potential of the land
Sell 10-11 lots at 25,000-30,000 = 250,000 to 330,000
Clearcut timber valued at 100,000-200,000 = 100,000 to 200,000

Realize personal financial gain of $350,000 (low end) to $530,000 (high end)

The "Getting At Least The Minimum Value Back For My Time And Money" Strategy
Supposition: what if I'd invested our money in a C.D. and worked at a minimum wage job, never bothered to invest in the fight to save Lake Whatcom?

A. Restored college fund added to price of land, invested in a C.D. at 5% simple interest for 10 years:
$50,000 + $80,000 = $130,000 at 5% simple interest for 10 years = $211,756.30

B. Lost wages: 15,000 hours at $5/hr = $75,000 minimum

Minimum TOTAL of $286,756.30

(but, I still owe $26,000 to attorneys, so adding in that figure means that)

Property should be priced at a Minimum TOTAL of $312,467.35

Instead, property is priced at $250,000.00 mainly to discourage timber speculators.

I continue to fight the legal battles to protect the lake, which means I may not be able to sell my property. Despite needing the money to buy a home in my new community, this is a consequence I accept.

And, I am willing to negotiate price in return for land protection concessions, while still living with the need to address the personal financial debt incurred as a result of my public interest legal work and the possibility of more legal debt if I lose any of the court battles.

Date: Fri, 14 Jan 2000 17:15:12 EST

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