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81-year-old Yakima Fruit Market in Bothell latest business in Sound Transit’s path

The Yakima Fruit Market is in the path of Sound Transit's bus expansion. (Yakima Fruit Market)

Yakima Fruit Market and Nursery in Bothell is a favorite summer spot for Puget Sounders in search of a flat of fresh raspberries or a hanging basket of colorful flowers.

But unfortunately, the 81-year-old produce staple is the latest business whose location could be in jeopardy due to Sound Transit’s expansion.

Due to the establishment of Bus Rapid Transit along the State Route 522 corridor on the north end of Lake Washington — part of the $54 billion Sound Transit 3 package that voters passed in 2016 — the Yakima Fruit Market could lose its parking lot and part of its building to new business and transit lanes.

Bus Rapid Transit will provide bus connections every 10 minutes from the suburbs on the northeast end of Lake Washington — Woodinville, Bothell, and Kenmore — with the future South Shoreline/145th Street light rail station, scheduled to open in 2024.

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Stuart Poage, who owns Yakima Fruit Market with his wife Karin, said that he asked for clarity on the transit plans at a recent community meeting, but received very little feedback from Sound Transit representatives.

“I got a lot of no response — I would say, ‘It looks to me like you’re chopping off the front of our building, taking away our parking,'” Poage told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson. “When I get zero response from someone, I kind of know what that means.”

Potential litigation for Yakima Fruit Market

He decided to turn to legal action, but observed that Sound Transit has been “a gorilla” in the courtroom, repeatedly winning these types of suits.

“No one beats them down,” he said. “They just push their way down regardless.”

Furthermore, he found that nearly every law firm he called had already taken on his opponent as a client.

“You can’t represent them with a major law firm because they’ve hired them,” Poage said.

One attorney told him that Yakima Fruit Market can certainly maximize the money it receives from Sound Transit in an eminent domain takeover, but that there is no way the small business can win the case. The news came as a huge blow for the Poage family.

“You feel like you’ve been kicked in the gut … it’s just overwhelming,” he said. “We had plans for our grandchildren taking it over; our children are in place to take it over. It’s our legacy — and our legacy is getting ripped out from under us.”

It’s a legacy for which the family is determined to fight. The Poages have now hired an attorney; additionally, they are reaching out to the Bothell City Council, as well as to longtime customers, for support.

“Pound the message forward that we really don’t like what’s going on — we don’t like the way big government and big business have taken this kind of a ploy against small business,” Poage asked of Yakima Fruit Market fans.

I lost my home to Sound Transit’s light rail

In an emailed statement, Sound Transit Public Information Officer John Gallagher stated that the agency is working with local government and with the businesses in the path of the new transit lanes.

“One of the businesses that may be affected by construction is the Yakima Fruit Market and Nursery in Bothell. Sound Transit, in conjunction with the City of Bothell, has begun a dialogue with that business and others to understand the potential impacts that the project may have with the goal of minimizing those impacts,” he said. “We are still in the earliest stage of these conversations and hope that we will be able to reach an agreement with the Market that addresses any potential impacts.”

Poage said that the thought of uprooting the eight-decades-old business has brought him to tears.

“It’s been my entire life, my wife’s entire life, our children’s entire life, and it’s all just being ripped away in a way that feels not like the democracy I was raised in,” he said.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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