The Aberdeen City Council came out of executive session Wednesday night to allow Mayor Bill Simpson to contract to purchase four parcels of land in the 400 block of East Wishkah Street for $250,000.
All council members but Margo Shortt were present for the voice vote of aye.
The former site of a Chevron station at F and Wishkah streets, the land is central to plans to renovate the entrance of town as part of proposed public and private partnerships being discussed by economic development consultant Cary Bozeman, Community Development Director Lisa Scott and Greater Grays Harbor Inc.
The site could house a visitor’s center, an entrepreneurial hub and other development, the officials have said. Improving the entrance to downtown is one of the top three priorities in the effort to revitalize the downtown core and connect it to the waterfront.
The land, now a vacant lot, belongs to Lakeshore Investment Corporation and Porterfield Investment LLC according to the sale documents drawn up by S. M. Piha Company LLC in Seattle. The sale contract is dated June 13.
The city has until Nov. 30 to come up with the money, which will come from reserves of the general fund, Finance Director Kathryn Skolrood said.
The city would then close on Dec. 18, City Attorney Eric Nelson said. The delay is to give the city time to have an environmental assessment of the land and communicate the results to the council before the purchase is made.
If cleanup costs prove to be too much, the city can back out, “no harm, no foul,” Scott said. The city is putting up $5,000 in earnest money.
The parcels are part of an area targeted by the Bozeman Group to be part of a renewed and improved entrance to Aberdeen. The city already owns a sort of triangle of land at Fuller Way and F Street near the proposed purchase.
The Bozeman Group recently released preliminary conceptual drawings both of the entrance area and a proposed park along the waterfront. The city has been talking to waterfront owners but has not publicly proposed purchase of parcels in that area yet.
The plan is to submit the conceptual drawings of both areas as part of a grant request for $146,945 from the Department of Ecology to pay for an environmental site assessment of each of the sites. The conceptualizations are an important component to the application for the grant money, Scott said.
Although the Chevron site was cleaned up after it was closed in 1991, there could be residual contamination, Nelson said.
The city can incorporate the waterfront land in the assessment even if they don’t own it, if the owner permits an assessment to be done. If approval is not given, the city will apply for the Chevron site only, Scott said Wednesday night after the vote.
“There is no (grant) money for acquisition, but there is money for development,” said Scott, explaining the reason for the purchase.
The conceptual drawings were created by consultants hired by Bozeman. They cost “under $10,000” Scott said. Council President Peter Schave questioned a check to pay Walker Macy for $8,139.60 earlier in the Finance Committee meeting during a review of city expenditures.
Scott said the funds came from a brownfield cleanup fund administered by community development, not out of Bozeman’s fee.
Part of the money for the drawings, for a trip to Aberdeen by one of the consultants, came out of a private donation given to the Aberdeen Revitalization Movement for efforts by the Bozeman Group. ARM is the fundraising outlet for the group.