The Town of Steilacoom has given the owner of the Steilacoom Marina until mid-May to complete most of the cleanup at the site or the town will seek court approval to remove the public nuisance and recover that cost through a lien or foreclosure.
Seventeen months after a blaze destroyed the nearly 50-year-old marina, it remains a partially fenced-off wreck with heaps of wood, tires, and torn bags of soot and other debris. Neighbors have complained about the eyesore and have repeatedly asked town officials to do something about it.
Town Administrator Paul Loveless gave property owner Shirley Wang the deadline last month, two days after learning of a delay in the cleanup that could extend until at least mid-July.
“Ms. Wang, the Town has been extremely patient, based on your assurance that you were working diligently to clean up the property,” Loveless wrote in a Feb. 16 letter. “The Town’s patience is at an end. It is time to take action.”
Wang said she isn’t intentionally postponing the work but didn’t agree with the price her contractor gave for the cleanup. Wang said she will begin as soon as possible with workers and a barge that she will hire.
“I don’t want to create any more problems for the (town) because they’ve been very patient with me,” she said.
Officials were encouraged after Wang’s contractor secured permits from the state departments of Fish and Wildlife and Natural Resources to do the work. Portions of the marina sit on public tidelands leased by DNR.
Wang signed an exclusive contract last year with Scharnhorst-Gneisenau, a Tacoma-based marine services firm, to secure permits and complete the cleanup and site rehabilitation, said Cate Riley, the company’s owner. Wang paid for the permitting work and fees.
Then things went astray. After the final permit was secured in early February, Riley told Wang the company was ready to start work and gave her the cost estimate.
“She wanted to seek other bids,” Riley said.
Riley said she hasn’t heard from Wang since mid-February, when the property owner called to set up a meeting to ensure there were no misunderstandings. The meeting never took place.
Workers were to stow the debris on a barge because the marina is accessible only by foot or boat. As of last week, however, a condition of the Fish and Wildlife permit bars work from the barge in the area until mid-July to protect migrating juvenile salmon.
The agency can ease that restriction, said agency spokesman Craig Bartlett, but Wang hadn’t made a request to the agency as of last week. Wang said she will make the request, and will have workers haul the debris on foot in the meantime. But it remains to seen whether Wang’s deviation from the permitted plan will pass muster with officials.
Loveless wrote in his letter that debris is scattering around the beach – the town’s Saltar’s Point Park is next door – and some has probably floated or sunk into Puget Sound.
Jeff Barney, bay patrol director for Tacoma-based Citizens for a Healthy Bay, a nonprofit that works to protect Puget Sound, said the situation is unacceptable and threatening water quality. He said every time a windstorm blows or trespassers access the site, “it seems like more debris sheds from her property, and she’s not being held accountable for it.”
“We’re gravely concerned,” he said.
Wynnae Wright, a natural resources specialist for the state Department of Natural Resources, raised safety concerns. She said she’s observed people accessing the deteriorating marina.
“It’s a bad scene,” Wright said.
Wang is also responsible for cleaning up several sunken boats, Wright said.
The marina has been in the hands of the Wang family for many years. Shirley Wang took over for her husband, Paul, after he was robbed and murdered in the marina store in 1987. Barry Massey, then 13, and his 15-year-old friend Michael Harris were convicted of aggravated first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.