Old landfill complicates city’s plan to sell land

Old landfill complicates city’s plan to sell land

Source: The Wenatchee World (WA), January 26, 2012
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

An old, buried landfill is hampering Wenatchee’s plans to sell its waterfront property.

The city had hoped to sell the approximately 3-acre site on Worthen Street near the eastern end of Riverwalk Crossing for $1.9 million. It is centrally located in an area that the city hopes will be redeveloped into a commercial and residential district.

But an environmental consultant hired to study the ground contamination has recommended that the city not sell about one-third of the site that sits over an old landfill.

Proceeds from the anticipated sale of the land were earmarked to help pay off short-term bonds used for construction of the city’s public works complex on McKittrick Street.

Steve King, director of public works engineering for the city, told city officials last week that they should consider either leasing the property or legally subdivide it and retain the roughly one-acre portion that’s over the landfill.

He said the city will always retain liability for any damages that could stem from the old landfill, and the cost could be higher if someone buys and develops the land.

“If we were to sell it and some day it was determined it was an environmental contamination site, we’d have to buy it back and tear out any improvements,” he said. “We don’t want to get ourselves in that position.”

The property sits directly north of the old Morse Steel warehouse, which is being proposed for a public market. The city’s public works operation was located there until it was moved to McKittrick Street to make way for waterfront development.

A year and a half ago, the city hired an environmental consultant to do drilling and use ground-penetrating radar to determine the size and extent of the landfill and to determine how much of the city site is suitable for development.

The consultant recommended that the city either lease the land or sell just the portion that isn’t over the landfill. King said the portion that doesn’t sit over the landfill could be used for just about anything. But the part that is over the landfill could be only used for parking or green space. That part of the property fronts Riverfront Park, while the non-landfill portion sits along Worthen Street.

The property has been listed for sale with Sage Real Estate, but the city has not received any offers on it, King said. He said that the real estate company has not been actively marketing the site because of the environmental studies being done.

The city is still working with the state Department of Ecology to determine what steps may need to be taken to monitor the old dump.

King said that while the city had hoped selling the site would pay down its debt, he said leasing it could achieve the same thing. If the city secured a long-term lease, it could sell bonds guaranteed by the lease proceeds and then use the bond proceeds to pay off the short-term bonds that expire in three years.

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