Purchase fills geographic hole in port's industrial holdings

by: MARK MILLER - The small house at 58240 Old Portland Road in McNulty, which is surrounded by industrial land owned by the Port of St. Helens, is part of the one-acre property the Port Commission approved for purchase Wednesday, April 9.Port of St. Helens commissioners voted to approve the purchase of an acre of property that includes a small house in the McNulty area of south St. Helens on Wednesday, April 9.

The port’s deputy executive director said the homeowner and port agreed to an $80,000 purchase price for the property at 58240 Old Portland Road, which is in the process of being annexed to the city of St. Helens and has no functioning sewer or septic system.

“The owner approached us and asked if we would like to purchase,” said Paula Miranda. “Well, considering that it’s completely surrounded by our property and is industrial, we considered it. ... If we purchase this, it’s basically to connect with our other sites.”

Miranda concluded that with homeowner Robert Williams looking to sell the property, “It just makes sense at this time to go ahead and purchase.”

Port Commissioner Chris Iverson noted that the basalt bedrock beneath the property would make it expensive to connect the property to St. Helens’ sewer system — a key benefit of annexation, and a necessity for the small house to be habitable in case the port wants to rent it out.

Miranda indicated the prospects of generating much revenue for the port from operating the house as a rental unit are not good.

“It’s such a small house, and it’s a little bit of a dump,” Miranda said.

Commissioner Colleen DeShazer, participating in Wednesday’s Port Commission meeting by telephone, suggested the port decide what to do with the property after it purchases it.

“Maybe we have two separate discussions here,” DeShazer said. “One, are we going to buy the property for future industrial development? And then after we make that decision, then we can decide what we’re going to do with it in the interim.”

On a motion by Commissioner Terry Luttrell, the commission voted unanimously to authorize Executive Director Patrick Trapp to sign a purchase agreement for the property.

“I think it’s a no-brainer,” Luttrell said. “I think we need to get it.”

Although a house stands on it, the property is zoned for industrial use. St. Helens City Planner Jacob Graichen said the residence is a “nonconforming use” that was built before the county designated the land for industrial use.

According to Graichen, while the St. Helens City Council voted to approve Williams’ application to have the city annex his property Wednesday, April 2, voters must assent before it is officially incorporated into the city limits. Such votes are rarely controversial, he said.

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