The Port of Astoria Commission on Tuesday extended Astoria Hospitality Venture’s lease on the Astoria Riverwalk Inn through October 2018.
The company, headed by developer Chester Trabucco and fish processor William Orr, had been operating on a month-to-month lease since being chosen as the short-term operator nearly a year ago. Port Executive Director Jim Knight said nothing about the lease will change, except for the term.
Orr and Trabucco’s work on the inn has been lauded by Port commissioners and administration. But Orr said the company needs more certainty to fix bigger-ticket items at the hotel.
“I think it’s only fair we let them work on a lease to continue that effort,” Commissioner James Campbell said.
Pointing down at the hotel rooms overlooking the West End Mooring Basin from the Port’s second-floor meeting space during the meeting Tuesday, Orr said the company is replacing many of the railings and sliding glass doors. He has said it will take $40,000 alone to replace an aging laundry facility in the hotel.
Through another of his companies, Marina Village LLC, Orr is in negotiations with the Port to take over operation of the Chinook Building, a commercial structure near the hotel. The agreement could include an option to lease the former Seafare Restaurant, a run-down building in between the hotel and Chinook Building Orr has expressed interest in redeveloping as part of a larger, unified tourist destination around the West End Mooring Basin.
Until now, the Port has kept the agreement short term until the resolution of a lawsuit filed by spurned rival suitor Param Hotel Group. After Hospitality Ventures was chosen, Param filed suit against the Port, claiming their rival’s personal connections to the Port gained them favorable treatment. Orr is the brother-in-law of Commissioner Stephen Fulton, and purported by Param to be a friend of Commissioner Bill Hunsinger. A trial is scheduled to start in January.
Orr and Trabucco were named as co-defendants on the claim they intentionally interfered in Param’s business by lobbying the Port Commission. Clatsop County Circuit Court Judge Philip Nelson ruled the lobbying of a public body, even for commercial interest, is protected. A court hearing on attorney fees is set for later this month.
In other news:
• The Port Commission voted to award the contract for stormwater improvements to Conway Construction of Ridgefield, Washington. The commission had voted late last month to go with Conway. Port Permit and Project Manager Robert Evert said the company will use about six local subcontractors for much of the work.
• Knight said he has a tentative agreement between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and log exporter Astoria Forest Products regarding a labor dispute. The Port and the forest products company have been subsidizing so-called “ghost riders” — longshoremen who mostly sit in the passenger seat of contracted third-party log trucks taking timber between Piers 3 and 1 — to satisfy a contract provision. Knight said the company will buy or lease its own trucks, hiring longshoremen to drive.