Port seeks legal advice on Maytown

Port of Olympia commissioners will meet with a lawyer this afternoon to discuss the pending sale of Maytown property.

The focus of the discussion will be an agreement connected to the Port of Tacoma’s pending sale of the 745-acre property south of Olympia. There’s time reserved for an executive, or closed, session to discuss potential litigation and real estate.

Port of Tacoma commissioners authorized the sale of the 745-acre property last week to Maytown Sand and Gravel LLC for $17 million.

The agreement grants the Port of Tacoma proceeds from any sale of up to 65 acres of the property for rail uses, such as a staging area. The property is south of the rail line that bisects the property.

Rail staging was one of the functions of the proposed South Sound Logistics Center. The center was intended to speed delivery of cargo to and from the ports and ease truck congestion on Interstate 5. Instead of driving to and from the ports, truckers could load or unload cargo at the center using railcars for eventual shipment overseas or delivery stateside.

The agreement expired in June 2008 after the two ports dropped the proposal because of a decrease in cargo traffic and public opposition.

One port commissioner and a resident have raised concerns that the agreement is a way to resurrect rail staging on the property without the Port of Olympia’s involvement.

Sharron Coontz, a spokeswoman for Friends of Rocky Prairie, characterized the agreement as an “end-around” of the state law that prohibits ports from conducting business in another port’s jurisdiction without an agreement. Her group opposed development of the logistics center and worked to conserve the property.

“They’re trying to dictate future land use in Thurston County,” she said.

George Barner, the president of the port commission, said the agreement appears to contradict the Port of Olympia’s understanding that the proposal for a rail transfer center is history.

If the property was sold to provide those rail services, he said, “that would create a very awkward situation and would be considered to be a breach of faith by the Port of Tacoma, because we understood that issue was dead.”

Port of Olympia Commissioner Bill McGregor said he wants to make sure the Port of Tacoma is not holding an interest in property outside their jurisdiction, in violation of state law.

“We’re just trying to figure out what’s going on,” he said.

A Port of Tacoma representative was not available Tuesday to answer questions about the agreement.

Christian Hill: 360-754-5427