Officials are preparing to ask community members in Cornelius whether or not they want Metro to build a new solid waste transfer station in the city.
Metro has signed a purchase of sale agreement with Cornelius for a 12.5-acre lot at North Fourth Avenue and Holladay Street, several blocks north of the Cornelius Walmart, where the station would be constructed.
The project is in its initial stages, and Metro wants to spend up to a year gauging the community's interest in the project and hearing from stakeholders about their concerns, according to Metro spokesman Ken Ray.
The community feedback will influence what amenities the facility includes, but it also could determine whether or not the facility is built at all, Ray said.
On Monday, Nov. 4, Metro officials discussed the proposal with the Cornelius City Council during a work session. Homeowners associations and businesses near the proposed site were notified of the work session prior to the meeting, Ray said.
Metro hasn't built a new transfer station since 1993, when it constructed its second facility along the Northwest Portland waterfront.
Earlier this year, the Metro Council adopted a 12-year regional waste plan. While creating the plan, Metro identified a need to build new solid waste facilities to keep pace with the demands of Washington County's growing population.
"There really is a need for a publicly owned transfer station that can provide a variety of services to the public that existing privately owned transfer stations out there aren't currently providing, or at least not providing in a significantly cost-effective manner," Ray said.
People in Washington County travel long distances to Metro's transfer stations in Northwest Portland and Oregon City for affordable waste disposal, Ray said.
Waste Management's transfer station in Forest Grove primarily serves commercial customers, and costs for individuals can be four times higher than at Metro's facilities, Ray noted. Additionally, people that want to dispose of household hazardous waste must go to Metro's existing facilities, he said.
On Monday, Metro officials told the City Council they plan on building an advanced, indoor facility that's probably not what people typically think of when they imagine a solid waste station.
"We're talking about state-of-the-art stations," said Matt Tracy, Metro's lead transfer station operations planner. "We're talking about stations that are not your father or your grandfather's dump."
Tracy said Metro plans to model its new transfer station off ones in the Seattle area. He told councilors the new station would align with Metro's goals to reduce emissions, accommodate growing populations, include disaster-ready features, and promote reusing and repurposing waste materials.
Tracy said some new stations have community gathering spaces, waste education rooms and environmentally friendly features such as rain gardens.
"In our talking with folks who reside in the area and have businesses, they were really surprised at the fact that this just basically looks like a business center or an office building," Tracy said.
Mayor Jef Dalin joked that the facility could end up being a destination for the community.
Tracy said technology will allow for fast processing of materials to reduce negative impacts such as odor.
"The whole idea would be to eliminate as much of the odor as possible," he said.
Cornelius Community Development Director Ryan Wells said the city has been communicating with Metro for months about the proposal. He said officials agreed the industrial plot would be the best location in the city.
Tracy said Metro looked at six different possible sites that met its criteria for the facility, and three of them were in Cornelius.
"It's along industrial collector streets, which is a street classification that basically means you're expecting heavy truck traffic, your streets are built out to accommodate larger vehicles and heavier loads, which this type of operation would likely generate," Wells said.
He said he has been asking for assurances that the facility would be a benefit to the community rather than a burden.
Waste facilities have historically been located in areas with lower socioeconomic demographics, and Cornelius has one of the largest low-income populations in the area.
"At first, I was concerned about, 'Are they selecting a community that is in certain demographics that have historically found themselves on the receiving end of some of the facilities that don't have the best community impacts?'" Wells acknowledged.
But he said Metro's plan for community outreach makes him confident the planning process will be done in a way that takes all concerns into account.
"I'll be a part of that. Our city leadership will be a part of that," Wells said. "I think (Metro) has the right intentions here. They are being mindful of what this can bring to the community in a positive light, but also very thoughtful about the impacts any new development will have on a community."
City Councilor Luis Hernandez asked Tracy if the facility would generate more noise and traffic.
"Yes, you might see an uptick in traffic," Tracy said, adding he doesn't know how much of an increase because Metro doesn't currently have data about existing waste collection routes in the area.
When Dalin asked whether the community could expect job opportunities to come with the facility, Tracy said his conservative estimate is about 20 jobs.
Ray said he is hopeful the community will see the facility as an asset. People interested in providing feedback can look for upcoming outreach events.
"For this to work, this has to be an asset to the community," Ray said. "We want to hear from the community about what they think about this. If the community doesn't want it, we'll think about what else to do with this site or look somewhere else."
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