Monday, October 14, 2013

Compelling Letter Sent to Commissioners by Ivan Maluski of FRIENDS of FAMILY FARMERS

Please find attached and below comments from Friends of Family Farmers in opposition to the proposed rezoning of nearly 1000 acres of agricultural land to industrial uses by the Port of St. Helens at Port Westward. 

Testimony in Opposition to the Port of St. Helens Proposal to Zone Farmland for Industrial Development
October 9, 2013

Attn: Jan Greenhalgh, Custodian of Records, Columbia County, Oregon
Dear Commission Members:

Friends of Family Farmers is Oregon’s largest sustainable agriculture advocacy organization, promoting policies that enable family farmers to be successful. We respectfully urge the Columbia County Board of Commissioners to deny the request by the Port of St. Helens to rezone nearly 1000 acres of agricultural land for industrial uses at Port Westward. We understand that the County’s Planning Commission recommended denial of this rezoning application, and we urge you to do so. Protecting farmland and the economic viability of existing family farms is too important to allow the expansion of the Port’s industrial development areas. 

We are specifically concerned about a potential and inappropriate declaration of this rezoned area as a ‘regionally significant industrial site’ under the auspices of SB 766, which would limit the public’s ability to review any new development projects, while prohibiting public hearings and appeals to the Land Use Board of Appeals. 

Additionally, we have the following concerns:

Rezoning farmland for industrial development will not only threaten farmland and the economic viability of existing family farms in the area, it will likely increase rail and road traffic, which will also impact farm operations. 

This rezoning appears at least partially intended to pave the way for coal export proposals that could threaten nearby farms with harmful coal dust and toxic materials associated with coal handling, storage and transport operations. This could impact water quality, the viability of farm crops and soil, and ultimately, the health of farm families and rural residents in the area. Non-specific ‘controls’ and monitoring for dust and water pollution is not enough to protect productive farmland, water quality and rural residents. Only protecting this farmland from development and denying this rezoning application will accomplish that. 

The Port’s proposal will eliminate over 600 acres of highly productive farmland that should be protected. Such development will have negative economic impacts on Columbia County’s family farmers, its agricultural sector, and the related businesses that depend on it.

The majority of the existing Port Westward industrial area is currently undeveloped. Before proposing to rezone undeveloped farmland, putting the economic viability of many farm families at risk, the Port should utilize existing industrial-zoned land. Once farmland is developed, it will be lost forever. 

Thank you for your consideration of these comments. Again, we urge you to deny the Port of St. Helens rezoning request at Port Westward. 

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