The two sides in the dispute over whether the joint owners of Great Wolf Lodge should pay property taxes have participated in one mediation session, and another likely will take place soon, a Thurston County commissioner said Tuesday.
Commissioner Karen Valenzuela, who attended the all-day mediation meeting Dec. 2 in Tacoma, described it as productive and said both sides of the dispute – representatives of the Chehalis Tribe and Great Wolf Resorts, along with county representatives – shared a willingness to work together.
Other details of the first meeting won’t be disclosed until the two sides produce a written agreement, Valenzuela said. If not, the joint owners of Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound likely will continue with their appeal of a federal court ruling last year.
“Despite the fact that we’re having a difference of opinion, I’m hopeful one more session will get us there,” Valenzuela said about mediation. The federal mediator working with both sides, Chris Goelz of Seattle, could not be reached Tuesday. During the December meeting, the two sides were sequestered in different rooms as the mediator shuttled back and forth between them, she said.
At issue is the county’s multiyear effort to collect resort property taxes from a corporation called CTGW LLC, a company established under Delaware state law and formed by the Chehalis Indian Tribe and Great Wolf Resorts Inc. of Wisconsin. Great Wolf Lodge opened in Thurston County in 2008.
After the county tried to collect taxes, the tribe sued the county in federal court. Former Assessor Patricia Costello, who retired at the end of 2010, said the county’s tax-collection efforts were focused on the corporation, not the tribe.
“We’re taxing a non-tribal Delaware corporation,” Costello told The Olympian in April about the time that a federal judge ruled in the county’s favor. The ruling since has been appealed. Costello said in October that after three years, CTGW LLC owes the county $3.82 million in property taxes, not including penalties and interest. A current figure was not immediately available.
Costello since has retired, so the next mediation meeting, when a date is set, will be attended by assessor-elect Steven Drew, who defeated Glen Morgan for the assessor’s job in the November election.
During the campaign, Drew acknowledged that he likely would have come to the same conclusions about the corporation needing to pay property taxes, but he also wants to work closely with tribal governments in the county.
Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 firstname.lastname@example.org www.theolympian.com