Letter: Port Westward - 'Rich as the Delta of the Nile'
I hope after you read this letter regarding the Nov. 29 rezone of 837 acres of prime farmland at Port Westward to industrial zoning by two of the county commissioners — Margret Magruder and Henry Heimuller — you will be as appalled as I.
Heimuller's reasoning was the standard political buzzwords of "we need jobs," using the recent announcement of Armstrong World Industries 2018 closure as an excuse to destroy 1 percent of the county's remaining farmland, and to support any dirty industry which this rezone would allow. But it would also hinder and cause degradation to the existing Seely Mint Farm and huge blueberry farms, which all are extremely successful, employ many people in the area, and do business internationally.
Then you have Magruder, who ran for the office of county commissioner by touting her connection to the land as a farmer. Her Oregon Shepard Wool Insulation Company was used in the re-modeling of the old grange building on Millard Road in Warren. The building was purchased by the Columbia Soil and Water District, with which Magruder has been involved for years. Conflict of interest? You decide.
Magruder, when Magruder Farms was featured in an Aug. 14 online article by Oregon Agriculture, stated: "I am Agriculture." Ironically she just voted to kill 837 acres of prime farmland that other farmers could use in their expansions. On other occasions, Magruder has related her family's history of farming in Clatskanie. She reported that in 1904 her grandfather found the productive soils along the Columbia River near Clatskanie "Rich as the Delta of the Nile." She stated over the years that her farm has produced many different crops, including oats, peppermint, cattle and sheep. She says she raises sheep for meat and wool, and is the owner of Oregon Shepard Wool Insulation Company. She says agriculture has been the Magruders' livelihood for generations.
So why would she vote to destroy other agriculture businesses?
Could it be she values her own livelihood from agriculture but not her neighbors, who also depend on farming for their livelihood as well?
Magruder has stated the importance of the need to expand her own business. In minutes from an Aug. 12, 2010, Rainier City Council meeting, she conveys to the council that her business requires sheep for wool, which requires pastureland.
Why do you suppose she voted "yes" to rezone valuable farmland when it could negatively impact her own business?
I would like to give a thank you to county Commissioner Alex Tardif for being the only commissioner to vote against the rezone, and most importantly to vote "no" because it was simply the right thing to do. Tardif's reasoning was logical. He said we need to move forward in our thinking, because the past has not worked well for the county. It's time for the county to move forward and not be stuck in the past with fossil fuels, as they are going away.
I happen to agree with Commissioner Tardif.
Columbia County needs to stop dumping scores of millions of tax dollars into Port Westward with the result of a few jobs, but many failed dirty industries where the taxpayers are stuck with the bill and with no end to the gluttonous tax breaks and numerous freebees associated with past failures, all at the cost to us, the taxpayer.