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Marquee debate may be moot

The Port Orchard City Council on Monday night discussed the results of a structural analysis recently performed on the city’s marquee, but councilmembers are becoming increasingly aware that repairing the aging structure may not be worth their while — especially if much of downtown is torn down and rebuilt by private investors.

Many of Port Orchard’s downtown buildings located on Bay Street have been optioned to a group of investors represented by real estate broker Rich Clauson, who started making offers to building owners several weeks ago in hopes of fostering a massive overhaul of the downtown area.

Although now Clauson said he is just working on acquiring the property he wants, the marquee may be a factor in future plans.

“The marquee is city-owned property, but in some locations it’s tied to the building for safety purposes,” said City Attorney Loren Combs, who explained this makes it hard to determine to whom different sections of the marquee legally belong.

“It does put us in an interesting position as it relates to the marquee,” said Councilman John Clauson — Rich Clauson’s brother. “Until we know for sure, I guess, whether their proposal moves forward, I’m certainly not interested in investing a lot of money in the marquee at this point.”

Combs said he’s not surprised by the options, or “feasibility contingency,” on which the buying of the Bay Street properties hinge.

Councilwoman Rita DiIenno said she is excited to finally see a private investor in the downtown mix — regardless of the legalities of the marquee.

“I am absolutely behind any private investor who is interested in purchasing property and bettering it,” DiIenno said.

However, DiIenno is concerned with the timing of the feasibility contingency and the relationship between siblings Rich and John Clauson.

“The question arises, ‘Are the options hinging on the actions of the city council in the future?’” DiIenno asked, citing a potential change in zoning as an example. “If that’s the case, I’m wary.”

Clauson said the deal hinges on his investors being able to buy all the properties they set out to. Other councilmembers are fed up with what they see as another under-the-table deal.

“Again, the Clauson family is trying to take things into their own hands,” said Economic Development Chair and outgoing Councilman Todd Cramer.

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