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Landowners concerned about port assessment

by CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE
Staff Writer | August 11, 2021 1:00 AM

MOSES LAKE — A small group of landowners on the west side of the Port of Moses Lake are expressing some concerns over how the port is assessing the value of their land to pay for improvements that are part of the West Side Employment Center.

“We’re not really disputing,” said property developer Bob Fancher. “They gave us a lump sum, how much the project cost, but there was no breakdown for the parts of the project.”

Fancher’s company, Central Terminals, owns two parcels totaling 160 acres on the west side of Road G Northeast, which was completed last year to provide access to the 2,300-acre industrial park. The road cost $5.5 million to build, and includes power, sewer and water hookups to most of the parcels contained within the development.

The port created a Local Improvement District (LID), including property owners who stand to benefit from the construction of the road and the expansion of the utilities, which now links state Route 17 and Road 10, north of the Grant County International Airport’s airfield, and has levied a special property assessment on landowners based on the added value to their land because of those improvements.

Fancher said the valuation of the improvements is also part of the problem, since the two parcels Central Terminals owns are outside of the Moses Lake Urban Growth Area (UGA), and are only zoned for rural residential development.

When the port appraised the potential value of his land, Fancher said it appraised the value based on both inclusion in the UGA and a change in zoning to industrial.

“There’s no way of knowing if that’s ever going to happen,” Fancher said. “You can’t appraise something on the basis of ‘what if’.”

At a regular meeting of the Port of Moses Lake Commission on Monday, commissioners agreed to delay a vote on approving the LID assessment roll until landowners got more information about how their assessments were determined.

“Apparently, they just got a bill, and I would be here if I just got a bill,” said commissioner Darrin Jackson.

According to documents obtained from the Port of Moses Lake as part of a public records request, the LID contains 22 parcels — seven of them owned by the port itself — with seven distinct owners.

However, Cynthia Weed, a Seattle-based attorney with K&L Gates LLP who advised the port during its bond issue to pay for the improvements, said based on what she saw, the appraiser appears to have addressed everything in the valuation study.

“They were to determine the highest and best use (of the land),” Weed told commissioners. “That’s basically what I saw in the paperwork I received.”

Commissioners also agreed to send additional information and a breakdown on project costs to each of the property owners in the LID, something Fancher said Tuesday he’s received and is reviewing.

“We want more transparency,” Fancher said.

The first tenant for the West Side Employment Center, Seattle-based Stoke Space Technologies Inc., is building a facility to test reusable rocket engines as part of an effort to create a reusable second-stage for rockets.