WEIRTON - ArcelorMittal is actively marketing 750-plus acres in Weirton that a Maryland company had under a purchase agreement for months but was unable to execute.
Sources familiar with the situation confirmed the company was unable to finalize the deal for the property, the focus of a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Wheeling, "and it is back on the market."
"It's unfortunate ... but there are other people out there who certainly have interest," said the source, who asked not to be identified.
While the steelmaker has balked at saying who it had been bargaining with, a federal lawsuit filed by Weirton native Jodi Kraina with her partners, Shelley Reed and Misty Shannon, identified the mystery buyer as American Port Holdings, a Maryland company whose principals had once worked alongside Kraina at American Heartland Port.
APH had long been rumored to be eyeing the property for construction of commercial use electric cars and other port activities.
Kraina's suit, filed in March 2011 but recently amended, claims that APH principals Dan Dickerson, Andrew S. Fellows, Stanley Ballas, James Martodam and James C. Breckinridge jumped ship from the company she'd incorporated, American Heartland Port, in 2009, in the process allegedly hijacking confidential reports, contacts and studies she'd commissioned on American Heartland Port's behalf and representing themselves to investors and the steelmaker as the architects of the project.
She also alleges APH brought Patrick N. DiCarlo, an agent for Channel Point Partners, the U.S. arm of Allied Investment Partners, into the purchase negotiations and suggests he subsequently conspired with ArcelorMittal to scuttle American Port Holding's proposed settlement with her company to get her out of the picture so they could bring in investment dollars from Abu Dhabi and an Indian firm, IL&FS Engineering.
Prior to forming American Heartland Port, Kraina said she had served as a consultant to Tantara Communications LLC for an inland waterway port being talked about in Weirton. She said that relationship ended when the company stopped paying her, though she and Reed continued to work on the project and even drafted a preliminary business plan that they presented to the West Virginia Public Port Authority. It was then that Kraina said she and Dickerson, Fellows, Ballas and Martodam began working together to take the project "beyond the idea of providing a communications system for the Weirton Port Project being discussed and to actually begin planning and construction of the port itself."
Kraina's attorney, Patrick S. Cassidy of Wheeling, declined comment.
A spokesman for ArcelorMittal also declined to discuss the status of the land sale efforts, saying only that the company "continues to market the property identified for sale adjacent to our Weirton facility."
"As this process is confidential, we are unable to provide further details at this time," the spokesman said.
The steelmaker five years ago announced plans to sell more than 1,300 acres it no longer needed for steelmaking in Weirton and, amid much fanfare, a committee of community and government leaders was formed to assist with that effort.
In March 2012 the steelmaker signaled it was nearing a deal for the property, asking for and receiving approval of a plan to subdivide about 750 acres of the surplus property which, because of its past industrial use, carries heavy environmental liability.
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