Elwha hotel land sale delayed; city, tribe say sale still to go forward

Frances Charles

Frances Charles

PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles and Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe officials continue to hash out details of a purchase and sale agreement for downtown property where the tribe wants to build a $25 million, 86-room waterfront hotel, city and tribal officials said last week.

A joint tribal-City Council meeting had been scheduled for April 10 to herald the $950,000 sale of 0.65 acres of city-owned property just east the Front Street-Laurel Street intersection and neighbor to The Gateway transit center bus hub.

The City Council had agreed to terms Feb. 20 that included $350,000 in cash and $650,000 in an environmental cleanup credit to cover tribal costs to mitigate pollution.

Council members had anticipated tribal council approval of an agreement in mid-February and a meeting with tribal leaders April 10 to herald the pact and a potential boost for downtown.

Tribal Chairwoman Frances Charles and Nathan West, city community and economic development director, said they expect the sale to go through, even though the announcement has been delayed.

Charles said the April 10 joint meeting was postponed due to a death in her family.

The purchase price has not changed and she hopes a signed agreement occurs “sooner rather than later,” Charles said.

“Things have transpired that are out of our control, and we are still continuing down the path,” she added.

“We have gone through [the terms of the sale] and came back with counter changes.

“We still have some clarifications in the agreement that we are looking at.”

She declined to provide details on the areas under review.

West said there may not be a joint meeting to announce the agreement as was scheduled for April 10.

“When that got cancelled, we were in the process of finalizing it with the tribe,” West said.

Suggested changes have gone back and forth between tribal and city officials.

“We are down to some pretty small issues at this point,” West said.

“It’s simply a matter of finding time to get there, so we have a purchase and sale agreement to get to each respective council.

“All the principles in the term sheet remain the same.”

That includes the terms for environmental cleanup of the site, which will require removal of contaminated soil that contains pollutants such as asbestos and fuel-tank chemicals.

Tribal official Michael Peters had said Feb. 16 that he hoped construction, which will include pile-driving, would begin by January 2019 and that the hotel might be open by summer 2019.

Buildings that will be demolished for the four-story building include those vacated by Harbor Art Gallery, Jim and Vicki Heckman’s Budget Car Rental, Avis Car Rental, the shuttle-bus company Olympic Bus Lines, and Larry Winters Storage Garage, a former gas and oil company where the Heckmans store vehicles.

Heckman said Friday the couple continue to renovate long-dormant property they purchased at the corner of Eighth and Lincoln streets and are waiting for approval of city permits to install a new car wash before they move their car rental and bus lines businesses. They operate out of 111 E. Front St.

“I’m anticipating, in my mind, that we should be moved, and it’s strictly a guess, in July or August at the latest,” Heckman said, adding he has not had contact with city or tribal officials about the hotel development.

“The last we heard, they will be meeting again soon, and hopefully we will have some answers,” he said.

Heckman said Cock-A-Doodle Donuts, operated by Dayna Page at the Front Street site, closed about a week ago.

“They brought us over our last box of hot donuts about a week ago,” Heckman said.

Sculptor Bob Stokes, operator of the Harbor Art Gallery that was at 110 E. Railroad Ave., said the gallery’s move to 114 N. Laurel St., has been good for the artists’ collective.

The number of artists showing their creations has nearly doubled to 22, and traffic has increased at a location that’s more noticed by passersby than the gallery’s former home, Stokes said.

He and his life partner, ceramic artist Cindy Elstrom, still must move the tools of their trade — he his foundry and she her studio.

Stokes, too, has been in the dark about the tribe’s plans for the hotel.

“Other than having to move, it will be a good addition to our town, I think,” he said.

More specifically, he’s hoping the hotel and other draws such as a planned performing arts center a block west off Oak Street induce people who go downtown to stay longer rather than viewing the cluster of shops, restaurants and bars as a mere transit point to Hurricane Ridge and Lake Crescent.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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