Tavern wants city of Oak Harbor to compensate for biz losses

Swinomish Tribal Community may not be alone in suing the City of Oak Harbor over the inadvertent discovery of Native American remains during the 2011 Pioneer Way project.

An attorney representing owners of Oak Harbor Tavern sent a letter to the city last month, demanding $100,000 to compensate the business for lost revenue due to restricted or limited access to the establishment during a nine-month period.

Seattle attorney Catherine Clark said in a letter that Kelly and Clifford Beedle, who’ve owned the tavern for 18 years, are prepared to file a lawsuit on the inverse condemnation claim.

“My hope is that we can come to a resolution on this one without dragging everyone through the mud,” Clark said during a phone interview.

Clark said she was contacted by owners of other businesses in the area possibly interested in filing a lawsuit against the city.

The Swinomish Tribe recently filed a claim for damages, alleging $9 million in damages for the desecration of a burial ground.

Oak Harbor’s interim city attorney Grant Weed and his law partner wrote a response to Clark earlier this year.

Grant denied that the city is liable and described the issue as a “typical public project disruption in common with the public generally, and business disruption to some degree as a result.”

“As you undoubtedly know, Washington courts have held that temporary business interruption of this type of not compensable,” Weed wrote, adding that the work did not disrupt access through the back door of the tavern.

Clark, on the other hand, argues this case is “factually unique” and that a majority of the tavern’s disruption was a result of the archaeology work.

Under former mayor Jim Slowik, the city undertook an improvement project on downtown Pioneer Way.

The city project transformed the road into a one-way thoroughfare, to the consternation of some merchants.

It was documented that Native American remains were discovered in the area and under the road in the past, according to the Swinomish tribe’s claim.

An official from the Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, known as DAHP, warned city staff prior to construction about the “close proximity” of the archaeological site.

Before the project began, the state Archaeology official strongly recommended that the city “retain the services of a professional archaeologist to monitor and report on ground disturbing activity along Southeast Pioneer Way, and help develop and implement an Inadvertent Discovery Plan for cultural materials.”

The archaeologists warnings were disregarded and roadwork came to an abrupt halt on June 16, 2011, after a worker discovered human remains in the earth beneath the street, directly in front of the Oak Harbor Tavern.

Work on the Pioneer Way project was halted for weeks in the area between Southeast Ireland Street and Southeast Ilwaco Alley, Clark said.

“During the city’s Improvement Project, access to the Oak Harbor Tavern was limited or restricted entirely for over nine months,” she wrote.

“From mid-June 2011 to mid-November 2011, the block between Southeast Ireland Street and Southeast Ilwaco Alley was fenced and screened.”

The city held a “Pioneer Way Celebrates” event to celebrate “substantial completion” of the roadwork in October 2011, even though the road was unpaved in front of the tavern and archeological work was continuing.

“The Beedles did not enjoy the benefits of ‘Pioneer Way Celebrates,’” Clarke said in her letter.

“Instead, the Oak Harbor Tavern continued to suffer significant losses to their business as a result of the Improvement Project.”

Restricted access resulted in an inverse condemnation, which refers to an action resulting in a government taking, Clark said.


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