Historic building owners spar in court

Posted 6/5/19

Owners of two neighboring buildings on Port Townsend’s waterfront are locked in a legal wrangle over property lines, safety easements and the attempt to build a passenger ship terminal in front of both buildings.

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Historic building owners spar in court


Owners of two neighboring buildings on Port Townsend’s waterfront are locked in a legal wrangle over property lines, safety easements and the attempt to build a passenger ship terminal in front of both buildings.

A nine-foot wide alley between the Hastings Building and the Bartlett Building is the subject of the lawsuit. An easement on that alley has allowed Siren’s Restaurant to use the alleyway as a fire egress and access for propane delivery.

But in discussions about the two buildings’ property line, the Hastings Company has given notice that it intends to terminate that easement, according to the lawsuit documents. Downtown restaurateur Kris Nelson is suing the Hastings Estate Company for use of the easement, for fire egress and to protect propane service to Siren’s.

The Hastings Company is in the process of renovating the Hastings Building, located at the corner of Water and Taylor Streets. The historic building, which was built in 1890, is a direct neighbor to the Bartlett Building, which is owned by Nelson and home to several businesses, including Siren’s Pub, The In Between, Briny Fido Designs, William James Bookseller and Itali Lambertini Tim Lambert Goldsmith.

The southern part of the Hastings Building, nearest to the water, was once the location of the Surf Restaurant and is known as Hastings Landing, where the Hastings Company is in the process of attempting to redevelop the site to build a five-story building. Its website says the company plans to develop a Passenger Vessel Terminal on the ground floor and hotel accommodations above.

Hastings Estate Company, Inc. is owned by Lucinda Eubank and Harry Dudley, who are direct descendants of Lucinda Hastings, for whom the building is named, according to project manager Heather Dudley-Nollette.

“Our family has been working on improving and redeveloping the Hastings Building for over twelve years and has invested significant personal resources and overcome many hurdles to bring this project to life,” Dudley-Nollette said. “Our goals include saving this historic gem in our community, creating living wage jobs and making this area a destination that locals will enjoy for themselves and will be proud to share with visitors.”

“We’re trying to find a middle ground on a lot of issues,” said Nelson, owner of the Bartlett Building. “But it’s come to the point where I think it’s best that we ask a judge to make the decision.”

The court documents stated that Hastings Company had asked Nelson to grant easements across the Bartlett Building tidelands, so that Hastings could attach a beam on the corner piling of the Bartlett Building’s deck to support Hastings Landing.

“The utility easement is being used as a pawn in their negotiations, but I think that it’s too valuable for that to be a pawn. Siren’s, the In Between, and my employees rely on this,” she said.

The easement for propane delivery is just one of several issues that the two companies are working to address when it comes to their neighboring buildings and businesses, Nelson said. The shared party wall is another issue that they are currently negotiating, as well as building over the tidelands, where Hastings Company is planning to build Hastings Landing—the site for a five story building and a passenger vessel terminal, according to its website­—is part of the problem.

According to Nelson, a document from 1886 says that the two buildings share a property line, like a shared party wall. But Hastings Company is hoping to determine the property line by the ground line. If the property line is based on the ground line between the buildings, that would mean that Hastings Company owns the inside of the windows on the Bartlett Building, Nelson said.

“Where the structure is and how they build it matters a lot to me,” Nelson said. “Where they build it will put my deck in the shade.”

But currently, the most important issue for her is the propane delivery.

“I hope the court will allow me to use my preexisting utility easement for propane deliveries,” she said. “I’m also hoping that if the property line issue does go to court that they’ll say it is a shared party wall and that we each own half, because that’s how it’s written.”

The next court hearing is set for 1 p.m. on June 14 at the Jefferson County Superior Court. But Nelson said the two companies are continuing to work towards finding solutions, even as the lawsuit proceeds.

“They’re not being spiteful and I’m not being spiteful,” Nelson said. “It’s important to me that they get to build because I love business and I love business opportunities. But I don’t want to be stepped on.”

The Hastings Company’s current building designs may also face conflict with the Port Townsend Municipal Code, which states that buildings in zone C-III, which stands for “Historic Commercial,” as the Hastings Building currently is, can only be 50 feet and are limited to no more than four stories or as specified by Chapter 17.28 of the Port Townsend Municipal Code.

Nelson said that the Hastings Company was working on designs and that they were willing to negotiate and change their plans, as they did eventually decide not to attach a beam to the Bartlett Building for support.

Dudley-Nollette said there will be more information on the project in early to mid-summer.

“Given the pending lawsuit, we cannot offer much in the way of details other than to say that we are defending against the claims,” Dudley-Nollette said.


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Justin Hale

As a long time patron of Sirens I have spent many enjoyable hours on the back deck of Sirens, the view of the bay from the deck is one of a kind and the last thing I want to see is the backside of a hotel. And just where are the patrons of the proposed hotel supposed to park their cars? , there are precious few parking spaces downtown as it is.

No to a hotel and no to a vessel terminal. Fix the Hastings building and remove what's left of the foundation of the old Surf.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019
Tom Camfield

Maybe my memory is finally fading, but I don't remember the Surf (formerly the Palms Cafe) ever having actually been part of the Hastings building. I seem to recall it as a separate entity.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019
Marilyn Berry

I will be moving to Port Townsend in several months and I've been updating myself with the goings-on in the town. I support those who protest the hotel and the terminal. I hate to see such a lovely small town fully enter the age of increased density and increased traffic with resulting parking problems. Continued development will eventually make the town much, much less livable. I am certainly not in favor of building upward when it blocks views that others have enjoyed for many years and creates shade where sun was previously enjoyed.

Sunday, June 9, 2019
Tom Camfield

No personal offense, Marilyn, but every person moving here becomes a part of the overall horde that requires more of this and more of that. And it's not unusual that relative newcomers want to deny accommodation to those who follow closely behind them. Port Townsend, Seattle and most everywhere else in this part of the world is under continued attack by refugees from over-population elsewhere. For some time, in my view, we've been becoming Paradise Lost. And yes, my own family was newcomers once—92 years ago.

Sunday, June 9, 2019
Dawn Mohrbacher

Marilyn, as a "local" who's family preceded Tom's by a few decades, I would like to thank you for your comments. This isn't affordable housing...it's a hotel, and one that would violate height rules, thus ruining others enjoyment of our beautiful town.

I do think that, like most towns with brains, that a new building needs to provide additional parking to support their occupations. As a merchant I appreciate the idea of more tourists, but as a merchant who moves furniture...the city has left us with a nightmare to get items in and out of our shops. A four story hotel isn't going to make that better. If we are going to allow a building like that, why don't we instead focus on a parking garage in the backlot which wouldn't impede views but would make life so much easier.

Monday, June 10, 2019