State commission to mull draft lease for Fort Worden

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — The Fort Worden Lifelong Learning Center Public Development Authority approved a draft lease agreement Tuesday that would allow it to manage a portion of the state park.

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission will consider approval of the lease when it meets in Anacortes this week.

The public development authority, or PDA, board unanimously voted in favor of the proposed 50-year agreement, which sets up the structure for the PDA’s management of the “campus” portions of the 434-acre park — about one-fourth of the park and including most of the buildings — while State Parks continues to manage the camping, beach and recreation areas.

“The next step is for the commission to approve this and for us to begin doing good work at Fort Worden State Park,” said PDA Executive Director Dave Robison after the two-hour meeting.

Concerns addressed

Said Parks Commissioner Rodger Schmidt, a Port Townsend resident: “I don’t think there is anything in the lease that will be objectionable to the commission, as their concerns have all been addressed.

“The only thing that can go wrong now is if something from the outside is thrown at us.”

The parks commission may discuss portions of the lease at a work session at 1 p.m. today in Anacortes and will address the lease formally on its agenda at 1 p.m. Thursday.

Under the lifelong learning center concept, the academic campus would be managed by the PDA to offer educational and recreational options.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Assistant Parks Director Larry Fairleigh said his department has several requested changes, but they were “not substantial”; many were grammar and spelling corrections.

If the board votes to accept the lease, it won’t be final until the PDA is designated as a public entity by both the U.S. Department of Interior and the state, which is a requirement for it to lease any park land.

This approval could take place within 30 days, according to Assistant Parks Director Mike Sternback, at which time the lease could be signed.

Under the lease, the PDA would take over management of the campus areas May 1.

Startup funds

One previous revision originating from the parks department is requiring the PDA to raise the $250,000 estimated as start-up costs, denying the PDA’s request to supply the funds.

Also, the Parks Commission will correct any building code violations between the time of signing the lease and its execution.

The lease includes a maintenance agreement that leads up to the PDA, which will pay no rent to the state, taking on all maintenance responsibilities after four years.

The PDA’s mission is to seek appropriate tenants for the park and execute subleases. The duration of these subleases became a point of contention Tuesday.

The lease says that any sublease longer than 25 years is to be approved by the commission, a condition that could be too restrictive, said board member Scott Wilson.

“In most cases, 25 years is sufficient,” Wilson said. “But we need to be offering longer leases to motivate the tenants to make building improvements.”

David Goldman of Port Townsend, who provided comments at the July 30 meeting, said the state is still doing more than its share.

“It appears that all the burden and the risk is on the state,” Goldman said. “The way the agreement is written, the PDA can walk if the commission doesn’t have the money for capital improvements.”

Sternback disagreed, saying the risk is mutual.

“There are arguments on every side of this issue,” he said. “There are risks on both sides, which is true of any partnership.”

For more information about the PDA, visit www.fwpda.org.

For information about state commission meetings, visit http://tinyurl.com/7lslrem.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: August 06. 2013 5:12PM
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