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Originally published Tuesday, January 7, 2014 at 4:19 PM

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Editorial: Too late to stop Friday Harbor customs house

Opponents of the federal customs agency’s new Friday Harbor office lease should accept reality.

Seattle Times Editorial

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Econ 101: This makes sense. Congrats to Gordy Peterson. This being empty must have... MORE
This site is actually very close to the original site of the Customs Office on San Juan... MORE
Hmm, sounds like the Feds overpaid. How can the owner "wait" for market rate... MORE


U.S. Customs and Border Protection might not be the ideal tenant for prominent street-level space in the center of touristy Friday Harbor, as critics contend.

But their bid to undo the agency’s new office lease is misguided and highly unlikely to succeed. This horse has left the barn, folks.

The 10-year deal was signed more than four months ago. The federal General Services Administration, which negotiated for the customs agency, says it’s a binding contract.

Opponents say the 5,000-square-foot space should be occupied by a more visitor-friendly business — but landlord Gordy Petersen had been searching for one willing to pay market rents for several years and found no takers.

Friday Harbor town officials have chosen, wisely, to stay out of this fight, other than to note that the lease complies with zoning rules. “The [t]own does not, and cannot, substitute its judgment for that of the property owner,” Mayor Carrie Lacher said in November.


U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, whose district includes the San Juans, has asked the federal agencies to look into designing the office to fit in with the rest of downtown. And, according to local press reports, the customs agency intends to make at least the lobby a tourist-friendly space, with maps, guides and a receptionist who can answer visitors’ questions.

Foes of the lease should accept reality and work with the agency, not fight it.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, Lynne K. Varner, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

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