PORT TOWNSEND — The Port of Port Townsend Board of Commissioners has received the appraisal of Short’s Family Farm, and the potential cost was much less than they had anticipated.
Last Wednesday’s discussion of the port’s possible purchase of the Chimacum Valley farm came ahead of the Saturday’s deadline, when the port’s exclusive agreement with the Shorts expired and the family could seek other buyers for their property.
The appraised $1.3 million market value — an appraisal the port had been waiting for since December — was significantly less than the $2 million to $2.5 million the port had estimated, port executive director Eron Berg, said, and it’s likely less than what the Shorts had expected.
“The next step is to meet with the Shorts and have a conversation about the valuation,” Berg said.
The commissioners noted Wednesday the many conversations they’ve previously had with constituents about the Short farm, the many emails to the port had received and the interest it had generated from both supporters and critics.
Jean Ball, who called into the meeting during the public comment period, said the port should not be “buying a pond” — a reference to the flooding from Chimacum Creek that leaves parts of the property underwater for months of the year.
“I support the idea of the port supporting agriculture, but perhaps there is property that would be a better fit for agricultural practices,” Ball said. “I also want to know how this proposal will be economically feasible.”
The flooding, the regulatory red tape required to manage the wetlands that are part of the property and the port’s lack of a plan for what it would do with the farm concerned commissioner Carol Hasse.
“I don’t take lightly the fiduciary responsibility that we have to taxpayers,” Hasse said. “Part of me really wants us to acquire the Short’s farm for reasons of supporting the salmon, reasons for supporting more organic food under cultivation, for access to land for farmers who might otherwise not have that sort of opportunity.”
Nevertheless, she wanted to move forward.
“What I would opt for is to buy some time with a right of refusal,” Hasse said. “There’s so many unanswered questions, I would want more time to put a solid plan together.”
Commissioner Pam Petranek, who also supported purchasing the property, said she agreed that finding a way to delay the purchase would also allow constituents more opportunity to become involved.
“To have a more focused time to come up with a plan now that we have the information and slowing the process down would be helpful,” Petranek said.
Berg said he disagreed with critics who have said the property was not viable for agriculture and that the interest he had seen from farmers in the port’s venture confirmed it was good for farming.
“I’ve lost lost track of the number of people reaching out who are interested in leasing land,” Berg said. “They ask, ‘Can you put me on the list?’ and there is not even a list.”
Laurae Hughes of Gray Fox Farm in Chimacum, who spoke at the meeting, said she supported the port’s purchase of the farm and that worries about flooding are overblown.
“We have 3,000 blueberry plants and they love the water,” Hughes said. “Water is a good thing. You just need to manage the water. From my experience and knowledge of the property, it can be a good thing.”
The appraisal for the Short’s Family Farm can be found on the port’s website at tinyurl.com/2cmh8xk8.
• The Point Hudson Marina reopened five weeks ahead of schedule after it had been closed since the Wooden Boat Festival ended in September last year for rebuilding of the north jetty. “The first tenant to take advantage of the early opening date was a kayaker,” Berg said.
• The commissioners approved Peter Hanke’s request for an excused absence for not being in attendance.
Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at email@example.com@soundpublishing.com.