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Posted on Jul 31, 2015

PUD settles on CB leases & island recreation plan

Grant PUD commissioners on Tuesday made two important decisions that impact the future of Crescent Bar.

Commissioners voted to authorize the execution of a settlement agreement between the utility and Crescent Bar Island leaseholders.

The utility’s leaders also voted to direct staff to begin designing an on-island recreation plan that maintains the Crescent Bar Golf Course. The golf course has been a topic of debate for the past several months.

The settlement ends a five-year battle between the utility and leaseholders. It was signed last week by the four homeowners associations that represent the leaseholders.

“None of us wanted to see the lawsuit continue,” Commissioner Terry Brewer said during the meeting.
The PUD and islanders have a lease that dates back to 1962, when the leaseholders leased the 194 acres from the PUD. In 2010, PUD commissioners voted to discontinue residential use of Crescent Bar Island and ordered about 400 leaseholders to be evicted by June 2012, the date the leases to the land under their island condos and RV homes expired.

Then, in January 2011, island residents and their associations sued the PUD and Port of Quincy to remain on the island. (The Port of Quincy previously settled with the islanders.) Any attempts at mediation between the two sides were unsuccessful until late last year.

Settlement discussions began in December 2014 between representatives of the two sides following the urging of a federal judge in U.S. District Court that the two parties settle rather than go through a costly trial. The utility has paid about $3.2 million in legal costs.

In April, the two sides reached a memorandum of understanding, which eventually led to the settlement decision on Tuesday.

Under terms of the settlement, access to 80 percent of the Crescent Bar area previously under lease will be fully available to the public. The residents will be allowed to remain on the island through at least 2047 under a new lease agreement. They will be required to pay fair-market rent to Grant PUD retroactive to 2012 and will pay their share of needed capital upgrades for wastewater treatment and fire-safety infrastructure.

On Tuesday, the settlement was passed with a 4-1 vote, with only Commissioner Dale Walker voting against it. Walker said he voted against the settlement with “a heavy heart.”
He is concerned the people of Crescent Bar Island will not follow through on their obligations laid out in the agreement, Walker said.

Commissioner Tom Flint said that he has been back and forth on whether the utility should settle with the leaseholders. However, in the end, to continue with the lawsuit at the ratepayers’ expense — and with no guarantees the utility would be successful — was not the right decision, he said.

The decision of whether the island golf course should stay or go also was not a unanimous decision. It was passed 3-2, with Walker and Flint voting against it.

PUD staff earlier this month recommended keeping the golf course as opposed to redeveloping that land into an expanded public use area. The approved recreation plan for the island also includes developing 55 public RV campsites, an enhanced on-island boat launch, moorage, day-use picnic area, swim beach, walking trail, public parking and concessions.

Flint said he wanted to make it clear that his vote in opposition of the recreation plan was not because he doesn’t like golf.

“I’m not against golf,” he said. “I’m against golf on Crescent Bar Island.”

Using that much area for one sport doesn’t make sense to him, especially when stakeholders in the late 1990s told commissioners they wanted more areas for parks, camping and hiking, Flint said.

Flint said a month-long survey completed by staff “wasn’t credible.” He also believes golf is decreasing in popularity.

However, Commissioner Larry Schaapman sees the golf course as a source of revenue.

“I don’t see the need right now to throw the golf course under the bus,” Schaapman said.

However, that doesn’t mean he will support keeping the golf course for the length of the utility’s federal license, Schaapman said. He supports keeping the golf until staff shows commissioners they have other needs, Schaapman said.

In the coming weeks, PUD staff will begin to develop the new leases for the island property owners, which will take one to two months to finalize, said Jeff Grizzel, the utility’s natural resources director.

Staff also has chosen two appraisers to begin the fair market value assessments on the leased properties, said Shannon Lowry of the utility’s natural resources department. Those should be completed in November, Lowry said.

In the meantime, work will begin immediately on the final design of the on-island recreation plan, and crews will begin working in October on the redevelopment of the off-island recreation plan, Lowry said.

Redevelopment of the off-island recreation area will be completed by next spring, and the work on-island will be completed in 2018.

 

— By Jill FitzSimmons, editor@qvpr.com

 

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