The Port of Tacoma has reached a deal to sell its Maytown property, a move that scuttles efforts to buy and preserve the land.
In 2008, the port abandoned plans to build a rail logistics center on the 745-acre property amid heavy opposition from residents. Since, a coalition of conservation groups and state and federal fish and wildlife agencies has been trying to buy the Maytown property and preserve the Rocky Prairie habitat.
News of the sale Thursday derailed those plans.
“It’s kind of disappointing, but we don’t have any funding,” said Elizabeth Rodrick, land-conservation manager for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
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She said the conservation coalition continues to work with the new owner to preserve the more than 400 acres outside the area targeted for mining. Rodrick said the group will seek a state grant next year through the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program to aid its cause.
The Port of Tacoma Commission approved selling the land to Maytown Sand and Gravel for $17 million during a meeting Thursday. The move was delayed at the end of 2009 because of concerns raised by the environmental group Friends of Rocky Prairie, which opposes mining in the habitat and questions the validity of the property’s gravel-mining permit, and others.
The deal still could fall through. Thurston County officials have said that the port technically is not in compliance with the gravel-mining special-use permit, and they haven’t granted the port – or Maytown Sand and Gravel – the go-ahead to mine.
One of the conditions the port failed to meet involves monitoring the property’s groundwater. If the county revokes the permit because of that condition, Maytown Sand and Gravel could rescind its offer, said the Port of Tacoma’s real estate manager, Jack Hedge.
The new buyer has some work to do of its own.
Mike Kain, manager of land use and environmental review for Thurston County Department of Resource Stewardship, said that more than two dozen of 54 conditions tied to the permit have yet to be met.
This includes Maytown Sand and Gravel proving that it has a valid water right for the project as certified by the state Department of Ecology, Kain said.
“That’s the most difficult question they have to answer: Is the water right valid, or has it expired?” Kain said.
Port of Tacoma spokesman Tara Mattina said the state Department of Ecology investigated that issue in May and found no reason to take action.
Any decision made by the county regarding the gravel permit could be appealed.
Sharron Coontz, a Friends of Rocky Prairie spokeswoman, said that’s a likely scenario. Her group will be watching the process regardless of who owns the property, she said.
“We want to make sure the legality of the compliance issues are followed,” Coontz said.
Hedge, with the Port of Tacoma, said that Maytown Sand and Gravel has expressed interest in selling some of the land for conservation. Rodrick certainly hopes that’s the case.
“Maybe they’ll sell us the most sensitive area of the property,” she said.
Several representatives of Maytown Sand and Gravel were at Thursday’s Port of Tacoma Commission meeting, but they declined to answer questions from a reporters about their plans for the property. The company is made up of Federal Way-based gravel company Lloyd Enterprises and Southwind Realty, a real estate group from California.