Tansy Point debate grows

<p>A 43-acre piece of land at Tansy Point, currently occupied by Warrenton Fiber, is on the negotiation table for trade. The city of Warrenton will consider trading the lot for 20 acres on Dolphin Ave. Tansy Point is a naturally deep water port on the Columbia River.</p>

WARRENTON — More popular recently because of Warrenton Fiber Company-Nygaard Logging’s interest in acquiring Tansy Point, Warrenton City Commissioners stressed at a Tuesday meeting that discussion on the company’s offer has only just begun.

The company, a joint venture of the Nygaard family since 1999, offered the city of Warrenton 20 acres and a new Public Works facility on Dolphin Avenue in exchange for 43 acres of Tansy Point the city owns. The company’s offer piqued local interest and opposition. Some residents even asked for a ballot measure to decide whether or not to sell.

“Don’t make any assumptions on where this started or where this is going,” said Commissioner Mark Baldwin, adding that the city commission would have faced more criticism for not listening to the Nygaards’ offer.

He and other commissioners were adamant that the public has been kept abreast of everything and that nothing has been decided.

In 1977, Eben Carruthers, inventor of tuna canning equipment, and his wife Nancy deeded three parcels of the Tansy Point property to the city, with certain restrictions of use, including a parcel for the Eben H. Carruthers Memorial Park. Part of the reason was to avoid the property being condemned.

Part of the land is leased to Warrenton Fiber through December 2035. It currently earns $8,180 a month from the lease until next fall, when it nearly doubles. The monthly rent keeps growing by $1,000 every five years until it tops $19,000 in 2031. The city is expected to earn about $4.5 million between now and the end of the lease.

City commissioners, who received the company’s offer April 22, scheduled a work session to hear about the plan. They’re adamant that the public is being kept involved and that they’re considering the long-term interests of the city.

Mayor Mark Kujala said that after the recent Daily Astorian article was published, he wanted to make several clarifications, including:

• Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is not involved in the deal. Warrenton leaders and the Nygaards have informally agreed to include language stating such, although residents still harbor doubts about what can be restricted once the land is in private hands.

• The land being discussed has no restrictions of use on it. In 1986, the city bought Tansy Point from the Carruthers’ heirs for $81,200, lifting the restrictions of use on the land.

• Any potential sale wouldn’t affect sewer or water rates, which are part of the city’s enterprise funds. The lease payments from Warrenton Fiber supplement the city’s general fund, used for operations.

Costs of modernizing

“We’re not interested in LNG or any other crap. We’re in the logging business,” said patriarch Martin Nygaard, owner of Warrenton Fiber. The company employs about 140 people.

The Nygaard family representatives said the company needs ownership of the land to justify spending upward of $4 million to rebuild a dock that’s reached more than three-quarters of its intended lifespan and to pave its log yards for $5 to $7 million to mitigate storm water issues.

“We’re trying to fix several long-term problems that both of us are going to face going forward here,” said John Nygaard, son of Martin and co-founder of Nygaard Logging.

The 750-feet of dock it leases, he added, only has about six years of its prescribed lifespan left, and the city could avoid having to finance that. City Commissioner Dick Hellberg said there’s a history of docks failing under public entities.

City Manager Kurt Fritsch said that it’s advantageous for Nygaard to own its property before investing, but added that they could already be responsible for repairs as the tenant of the property. John Nygaard responded that Warrenton Fiber has the right to exit its lease after a two-year notice, a clause built in because of its past investments in the dock.

New Public Works facility

Martin’s grandson-in-law Adam Svensen, who owns North River Homes, detailed a new 4-acre Public Works facility included in 20 acres of graded land Warrenton Fiber would exchange with the city. The new facility would include 16,000 square feet of warehouse and office space and another 4,000 square feet for small truck parking, along with graded, graveled lots.

Svensen, reading from a script, said the new facility consolidates Public Works in one location; better preserves city vehicles from the elements with more covered parking; protects them from a tsunami by being on higher ground; and creates adequate office space for the city.

Pacific Building Systems, an Oregon firm that Svensen said built Ocean Crest Chevrolet, would build the new facility. The remaining 16 acres would be graded and ready for any use by the city.

The response

When the Warrenton City Commission started its public meeting, the chamber was packed with constituents – most of them opposed to any sale of Tansy Point.

They cited all the money the city receives in lease payments and the potential value of the land on an industrializing Columbia. The Dowaliby’s, descendants of the Carruthers, said the family deeded the land to remain in the public’s hands and protect it from condemnation. The family didn’t keep any of the sale price in the 1980s, they put it all into the park, they said.

Some asked whether Tansy Point’s potential sale should be put on the ballot, as the people of Warrenton own the public property. Hellberg and City Commissioner Henry Balensifer said they opposed sending it to election, which would bring in outside interests and money and unnecessarily politicize the issue.

Kujala said the city now must get another appraisal on the property, check the health of the dock and otherwise research the proposal. He scheduled the next discussion of Tansy Point for July 24.


Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.