Monday, October 14, 2013

 Article by Jude Noland in Clearing Up

[9.2] Opponents Petition Columbia County on
Port Rezone Application
Some residents of Columbia County, Ore., have
mounted a petition drive to ask the Columbia County
Commission to vote no on the Port of St. Helens’
to rezone about 1,000 acres of land near
Port Westward from prime agricultural to rural industrial.
Tracy Prescott-MacGregor, who owns a small farm
near the property proposed for rezoning, planned to present
the petition to the commissioners at an Oct. 3 public
hearing on the proposal. She had collected more than
500 signatures as of that afternoon.
The rezoning is “contrary to the spirit of Oregon’s
land use laws” and “paves the way for allowing transfer
of hazardous materials without public input,” Prescott-
MacGregor says on the petition website.
Prescott-MacGregor started the petition drive because
she feels “hopeless against this enormous pressure that’s
happening all along the Columbia River” for industrial
development, especially coal-export terminals.
The coal project proposed for the Port’s property,
however, would not be affected by the proposed rezone.
Ambre Energy’s $242-million Morrow Pacific Project
would be sited on property already zoned industrial. It
includes construction of a new coal-handling facility near
Boardman, to receive and transfer rail-shipped coal to
barges that would move it to the Port Westward Industrial
Park near Clatskanie, for export via ocean-going vessels.
“I’m aware there are folks opposed to the rezoning,”
especially due to concerns about coal-export facilities,
said Port of St. Helens Executive Director Patrick Trapp.
“But this rezoning application has nothing to do with
these projects.” Only part of Port Westward is zoned
industrial, he said, and the Port is now in a position to
rezone about 760 acres it purchased in 2010, “to take
advantage of other opportunities—not necessarily projects,
but to expand our industrial zone.”
“What they are trying to do, from what I’m watching,
is to rezone and then use Senate Bill 766 to pretty much
expedite whatever they want to get in there,” Prescott-
MacGregor said. Passed by the 2011 Oregon Legislature,
SB 766 expedites certification of industrial sites and calls
for designating 10 to 15 strategic industrial sites statewide.
Rezoning the port property isn’t the same as
it as a strategic industrial site, said Trapp.
The rezone is up to the county; the port would have to
apply to the state for strategic site designation, and has
held off doing so. “Whatever the results of the rezoning,
that’s just a step in looking at our future as a foundation
for economic development.”
Commissioners were not scheduled to vote on the
rezone during the Oct. 3 meeting [J. N].

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