Freeland group loses preliminary injunction request

— Created August 24, 2022 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

An Island County superior court judge has denied a request for a preliminary injunction filed by the group, Freeland Concerned Citizens LLC, to stop the Harbor Inn motel in Freeland from being used for bridge and supportive housing.

The LLC had filed an appeal and a motion for a preliminary injunction last month against Island County, the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), the state Department of Commerce, former motel owner Lucky Bones and two individual Island County commissioners. The two commissioners have since been dismissed from the complaint.

Randal Thiel of Bellevue, the attorney for Freeland Concerned Citizens LLC, presented several arguments challenging Island County commissioners’ approval of a $1.5 million grant to LIHI towards the purchase of the motel. LIHI had already received a grant of more than $3 million from the commerce department for the purchase, which was finalized July 22.  Thiel said they sought to stop LIHI from any further development of the property until there is a final resolution in the case.

“We just want to preserve the status quo,” he told the court.

Lawyers for the defendants in the case told the court there were so many arguments raised in Thiel’s subsequent pleadings, they didn’t know what to argue.

“None of us has had a chance to even know what the plaintiff is alleging,” said LIHI attorney Michael Rubin.

“What we’ve got today is massive confusion,” stated Peter Smiley, Island County chief civil prosecutor.

Even Judge Carolynn Cliff said the injunction sought “has been a moving target,” saying it wasn’t clear whether the Freeland group was asking the court to nullify the transaction or stop LIHI from all future development activity.

“Injunctive relief is in itself, extraordinary relief. The litigant who seeks it needs to show proof. …The court saw nothing in the way of proof,” Cliff said, denying the request for the preliminary injunction.

 Cliff did say she would be prepared to listen to arguments regarding the group’s zoning concerns at a September hearing.

Gary Wray, of Coupeville, is one of the three “governors” of Freeland Concerned Citizens LLC. Following the hearing, Wray told Whidbey Weekly he is not opposed to the Harbor Inn project. A member of Island County’s Housing Advisory Board, and an affordable housing advocate, Wray said he has serious concerns about existing infrastructure to support this project, particularly the septic. Wray said he just wants to be sure everything about this project is being done correctly.