Residents of a narrow strip of port-owned Marine View Drive waterfront land told Port of Tacoma commissioners Thursday that a port lease proposal could wipe out their neighborhood.
“The lease proposal is simply unacceptable,” Marine View Drive homeowner Sondra Purcell told the commission.
The lease deal as presented to the commission, said another Marine View Drive resident, Steve Shelton, would leave homeowners uncertain of their future and anxious that the port could move at any time to force them from their homes.
The port bought the slim, 17-acre parcel north of East 11th Street from Foss Maritime in 2005. The land is occupied by a small linear neighborhood of over-water homes, many of them dating from decades ago when they began their existence as netsheds or crab shacks.
The port owns the land on which those homes rest. All of the homes, with the exception of one that is owned by the port, are privately owned. The port rents those homeowners the land on a month-to-month basis.
Port real estate officials have proposed a new, more formal lease for the land that would set new rental rates, provide for annual rent increases and require homeowners to pay leasehold taxes and provide insurance for their rented property.
But perhaps the most controversial provision of the proposed lease deal is one that would allow the port at its sole discretion to terminate the leases if it needed the property for other purposes. Senior environmental project manager Jason Jordan told commission members the port would give homeowners a six-month notice if it needed them to vacate.
The proposed lease provides homeowners the opportunity to sell their homes to the port during the first 12 months of the lease. After that offer expires, the port wouldn’t buy their homes if they were asked to move or if they were forced to move for other reasons such as ill health, said Jordan.
Homeowners would have the choice of either moving their homes or abandoning them and watching the port demolish them.
Jordan said the port has no immediate plans for the property, but long-range plans call for the homes to be razed and the waterfront area converted to an environmental mitigation site.
Residents said they had been good stewards of the land, cleaning up the debris that washes onto their property and protecting the property from erosion.
Residents said that the port’s proposal could potentially destroy their unique, historic neighborhood, force aging homeowners out of residences where they’ve lived for decades and end the possibility that present residents could pass their homes onto family members.
If the port didn’t move earlier to ask residents to leave, homeowners could stay until they died or moved to another residence.
“We could be the last generation to live in these homes,” said Shelton.
Port commissioners said the issue of a new agreement needs to be settled soon.
Several commission members including Don Meyer, Don Johnson and Connie Bacon said the port’s short, 12-month buyout window seemed too restrictive.
They asked the port’s chief executive, John Wolfe, to take a second look at that provision in the proposed lease deal to see whether the port could reach an agreement with the email@example.com 253-597-8663