Port, Pacific Shredding tussle over land price

Property will be used for rail-expansion project

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

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A property dispute between the Port of Vancouver and Pacific Coast Shredding has intensified, with the two parties landing in Clark County Superior Court even as they exchange pointed words over how each side is handling the matter.

At issue is how much the port should pay the company, a port tenant since 1997, for acquiring a piece of its property to build a key segment of the port's $275 million freight-rail expansion project.

Neither party will discuss what's been offered or counter-offered for the roughly 1.1 acres of the nearly 14 acres Pacific Coast Shredding leases from the port.

Both sides have said they'd prefer to settle on a price rather than have a court decide it under eminent domain rules, and they are still talking. Those discussions will include a March 6 tour of the company's site that port commissioners have agreed to take

Chris Marr, a government affairs consultant for Pacific Coast Shredding, said the company wants to show commissioners that the operational and financial impacts of the port's property acquisition are much bigger than they think. "If we can make the facts known out there," Marr said, "that will allow the negotiation process to move forward."

But while the port continues to talk to Pacific Coast Shredding, it's not backing off its decision to launch court proceedings to settle the price issue. Theresa Wagner, communications manager for the port, said the two parties had been negotiating for at least two years, but a resolution wasn't in sight. The port went to court to get "help bearing out what the proper compensation is," Wagner said.

'Crown jewel'

Under the two parties' current lease agreement — adopted in September 2011 and revised two years later — the port already has the right to access the parcel to build a $38 million grade-separated rail entrance to move cargo into and out of the port more efficiently.

To resolve the compensation issue, the port on Jan. 29 filed a petition with Clark County Superior Court asking the court to weigh in. Pacific Coast Shredding, which breaks down hundreds of thousands of tons of recycled scrap metal for shipment overseas, doesn't dispute the port's right to get hold of the 1.1 acres.

But Marr said the company has incurred "many millions of dollars" in expenses to rearrange its operations for a new rail entrance that brings no benefit to the company. And the port, he said, has wrongly suggested its land acquisition affects only about five feet of the company's property line.

On the contrary, he said, the port is ruining the company's truck lanes by deeply cutting into the company's property line in several locations, including up to 40 feet in one case.

Wagner said one commissioner misunderstood the five-foot property line issue when he recently made public remarks about it. Otherwise, she said, the port has been forthcoming and accurate in describing all of the impacts to Pacific Coast Shredding's property.

What's more, Wagner said, the port has phased in its rail-entrance project specifically to allow the company, which continues to operate, to adapt to its new footprint. The port has called its planned $38 million rail entrance project "the crown jewel" of its $275 million West Vancouver Freight Access project.

The rail entrance is intended to reduce congestion on the regional rail system by as much as 40 percent. The port is building the project in four phases and expects to wrap it up in 2015.