Columbia River Carbonates last week sued the Port of Woodland in Woodland, Wash., accusing the port of giving a local RV park a “sweetheart” land deal through illegal meetings that breached the public’s trust.
In papers filed Thursday (March 15) in Cowlitz County Superior Court, the company said the port sold a 1.35-acre strip of land along the Columbia River for about 25% of its real market value, the Longview Daily News reported. The land, at the north end of port property along Dike Access Road in Woodland, sold for $44,000 — or 75 cents per square foot — but should have sold for at least $3 per square foot, the lawsuit claims.
The suit alleges that the port gave Columbia Riverfront RV Park special treatment when it sold the parcel to the RV park last April.
Carbonates officials were interested at one point in buying the land, but the port sold it without any public notification or bidding process, said Bellevue attorney Charles Klinge, who represents CRC.
Company officials “are just upset and surprised and shocked the port would do this,” Klinge said.
“They’re supposed to be developing industry, and this doesn’t do that. … They can’t decide to sell the property to the RV park without doing proper procedure,” he said by phone Sunday.
“The port’s duty was to sell the property for as much money as possible,” Klinge added. “As most of the public knows, you do that by holding a public bidding process, advertising the property for sale or listing the property with a real estate broker — you market the property to get the highest price to protect the taxpayers.”
Port Commissioner Jerry Peterson said Sunday he believed the port did nothing illegal and acted under the guidance of its attorney when commissioners sold the property.
Representatives for Columbia Riverfront RV Park were not available for comment Sunday.
In 2010, the CRC purchased another nearby property to build a marine terminal to receive ore shipments from its Alaska quarry. The company was interested in purchasing the property for additional access and asked the port to be placed on a list of potential bidders. The company says the port never contacted it.
CRC produces calcium carbonate, a common mineral widely used in the paper, plastics, paints and coatings industries and in a variety of consumer products.
Port officials have about two weeks to respond to the suit. The company has requested the court declare that the port’s actions were illegal and to rescind the sale of the property.
“It is an abuse of the public trust for a government agency such as the Port to sell property below market value in a private sale,” Klinge said. “The Port has failed its mission to use the public’s money wisely to promote industry.”