Thursday, March 25, 2010

Olympia Port Won't Challenge Tacoma Port Sale of Maytown Parcel

Attorneys for the Washington state Port of Olympia have advised port officials that they have no say in the Port of Tacoma's decision last week to sell the 745-acre Maytown parcel that raised questions about the failed partnership between the two ports to develop the property as an intermodal rail facility.

The Port of Olympia governing board, on the advice of the attorneys, decided Wednesday not to challenge the sale of the Maytown property.

The two ports agreed in 2006, when Tacoma purchased the property for $27 million, to partner on the development of the parcel which sits within the Olympia port's jurisdiction. State law prohibits a port from operating a facility in another port's jurisdiction.

The partnership agreement between the two ports expired in 2008, at almost the same time Tacoma port officials decided not to move forward with the rail facility project due to a decline in cargo traffic and growing local public opposition to the project.

When Tacoma officials announced last week that they had reached terms to sell the property to Maytown Sand and Gravel for $17 million, Olympia port officials became concerned about a clause in the sale agreement. The clause allowed the Port of Tacoma to reap any profits from the future sale of a 65-acre portion of the Maytown property for rail use. The smaller parcel sits near a main rail line.

Port of Olympia commissioners raised the concern that if the Port of Tacoma is holding a vested interest in part of the Maytown property without the cooperation of Olympia, Tacoma may be in violation of the state law barring one port from operating in another port's jurisdiction.

In response, Port of Tacoma officials told Olympia attorneys that the port has no desire to force the smaller parcel to be sold as rail property and were only trying to recoup part of the $10 million loss sustained on the sale of the entire parcel if the smaller property were used for rail facilities.