Glenwood Inn finger-pointing continues

After confusion between the San Juan County Council, Land Bank and San Juan Preservation Trust regarding the recently purchased Glenwood Inn, an executive session was scheduled on Aug. 2 to discuss disciplinary action against Land Bank Executive Director Lincoln Bormann. Islanders came out in force to speak during Citizens Access Time.

“This is an example of what not to do,” said Amanda Azous of San Juan Island. She added that the council had “not taken responsibility for their part of the miscommunication, and continues to finger-point at Bormann.”

The Glenwood Inn acquisition, which is 58 acres on Orcas Island, has been called one of the most complicated real estate transitions by land bank Commissioners and staff as well as SJPT staff due to the pressures of the negotiation, funding and that multiple parties were involved.

The crux of the issue is a county resolution signed June 14, retaining the rights to two development areas. San Juan County Council members have said they would like to see a portion of the property developed to include work housing. Land bank and preservation trust representatives say they were not aware of this intention.

“In my 11 years of interactions with Lincoln, I have never seen him distort the truth. I think the council is making a mistake,” San Juan Island attorney Doug Strandberg told the packed room.

Maureen See, also of San Juan Island, told the council she spoke for a group of people who were deeply concerned about the situation.

“There is plenty of blame to go around,” See stated, adding that “no one should have to work in a hostile work environment even if mistakes were made.”

Former San Juan County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Karen Vedder of San Juan Island provided legal counsel to the land bank for over a decade.

“I realize the islands are a different place than when I retired,” she said. “Lincoln is responsible for 75 acquisitions as director of the land bank, and has raised over 50 million dollars in grants.”

Three individuals encouraged the council to pursue disciplinary action.

“This is not the first time this has happened. It is not a one-off,” said Ramey Amaro, who with her husband Lance Amaro owns property next to the Mount Grant preserve, adding that she had watched a number of meetings between council and Bormann over the years, and said there were many instances where Bormann gave council reasons why various real estate transactions needed to be rushed.

Lance Amaro asked the council to determine one question: were they misrepresented?

“If you were, then the only result is termination,” he said.

San Juan Islander Ron Whalen, who has a neighboring property to the Zylstra Lake Preserve, also told the council that he had a lot of information regarding Bormann’s past behavior that he would like to give to them.

The trust has submitted a grant, jointly with the land bank, to the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration Fund that could potentially provide $3 million toward the Glenwood project. The grant application states that the trust’s conservation easement would extinguish ten of the 11 development rights that come with the parcel. Development of the upper lands of the property could impact any forage fish habitat on the beach. This in turn impacts salmon, which impacts Southern Resident Orcas, which is the reason the grant could be affected.

Prior to citizens’ access, the council voted to send a letter to the PSAR large Capital Project Reviewers expressing support for the grant and thanking them for considering funding for the project.

During the afternoon session on Aug. 2, the council met with Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Amy Vira to sign Resolution 21-2022 which amended the June 14 resolution that contradicted the grant proposal. SJPT Executive Director Angela Anderson joined the group online to address the council.

“I want to thank the council for supporting the joint grant application,” Anderson said, adding that it was one of the largest grants the SJPT has ever sought. “Our islands have retained their beauty thanks to all the volunteers over the years and to the public-private partnership between the Land Bank and the SJPT, which has provided a gold standard for preservation. That partnership has flourished under Mr. Bormann.”

The new resolution states, “The council supports the RCO grant application dated June 3, 2022, and its proposal for a conservation easement over the entire parcel with 10 of the 11 development rights extinguished and rescinds the portion directing the Land Bank Director to negotiate a conservation easement by Dec. 31.”

Council chair Christine Minney questioned the removal of the date, and wanted to make clear the resolution was not taking away authority from the Land Bank Director but simply allowing him more time to negotiate.

Vira stated it did not take away authority as written. The council went into executive session at 2 p.m., on a number of issues, and did not return until after 5 p.m.

At that time council unanimously voted to “confirm the plan of the county manager in regards to RCW 42.30 11.1101G to evaluate the qualifications of an applicant for public employment or review the performance of a public employee.”