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Is the Port of Portland being a 'bully' to get Hayden industrial site?



Photo Credit: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - An aerial view of the proposed industrial site on West Hayden Island shows part of the 300 acres that could be added as industrial land in a city land-use plan update.Plans for marine trade terminals on West Hayden Island are back on the table — but not if neighbors and environmentalists have their way.

A parade of critics bashed the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability and Port of Portland last week, charging them with a “back door” effort to revive industrial development on the island.

City planners, in a draft of Portland’s new comprehensive land-use plan, included 300 acres on West Hayden Island among the city’s industrial lands available for future development, in order to meet a state mandate to provide adequate land for future jobs.

Several nearby residents and environmentalists panned the idea last Tuesday, testifying at the first public hearing on the comp plan before the Planning and Sustainability Commission.

“The Port of Portland is the bully in the sandbox here; it found another way to get what it wants,” said Pam Ferguson, who represents 440 families living in a manufactured home complex blocks from the potential marine terminals.

Just eight months earlier, the port withdrew its request to have the city annex its 800 acres on West Hayden Island and rezone 300 of the acres to allow marine industrial terminals. The port backed off when it became clear the Portland City Council would not ease the strict environmental remediation and other terms approved by the Planning and Sustainability Commission as preconditions for the annexation. The port said those terms were too costly to make a marine trade terminal development pencil out, on what is a strategic site for such a project along the Columbia River.

Many residents — and some planning commissioners — were miffed that the West Hayden Island issue was back before the commission, but this time without the environmental and other conditions approved late last year by commissioners.

“Others have disregarded the careful work you did over a year ago,” said Hayden Island resident Timme Helzer. Now city planners want to go in the “opposite direction” from where planning commissioners landed last year, he said.

Bob Sallinger, conservation director of the Audubon Society of Portland, said the marine terminal project should have died once and for all when the port dropped its proposal in January. “That should have been the end; they said they would not protect the community and the environment,” said Sallinger, who helped galvanize opposition to the trade terminals.

By designating the land as a future industrial site, he said, “It virtually guarantees that development will happen.”

Greg Theisen, a Port of Portland planner, told planning commissioners it’s important for the city to preserve the option for shipping terminals on West Hayden Island, to secure its

historic role as a marine trade center.

“Portland’s future hinges on the success of linking to the international marketplace,” Theisen said. “West Hayden Island is an important element of that future.”

Kelly Hossaini, a Miller Nash attorney who represents the Portland Business Alliance, defended city planners’ inclusion of West Hayden Island in the developable lands inventory. “We face an industrial lands shortfall of more than 600 acres,” Hossaini said. And some of the city’s other ideas to meet the state industrial lands mandate, such as redeveloping golf courses into industrial sites, may never be realized, she said. “Don’t exacerbate that shortfall.”

Chris Smith, a member of the Planning and Sustainability Commission, said he was frustrated that city planners brought forth a proposal that was inconsistent with what commissioners decided last year.

Commission Chairman Andre Baugh promised that the panel will debate the West Hayden Island proposal and other policies in the comprehensive land-use plan starting in January.

A mix of uses

After the hearing, the Portland Planning and Sustainability Bureau deferred interview requests to Eric Engstrom, the principal planner who has worked closely on West Hayden Island issues. Engstrom did not return calls, but issued a written statement.

“The proposed comprehensive plan is a set of broad goals, policies and maps that describe how the city should develop over the next 20 years,” Engstrom wrote. “The plan does not rezone or annex West Hayden Island.”

Engstrom said that the site’s current farm-forest zone would remain and the Planning and Sustainability Commission’s terms for accepting annexation of the site haven’t changed. He said the comp plan proposal was consistent with Metro’s regional growth management policies and City Council Resolution 36805, “which anticipate a mix of marine industrial development and open space uses on West Hayden Island at some point in the future.”

Josh Thomas, the Port of Portland spokesman for marine and industrial development, said after the meeting that the port agreed West Hayden Island should be included on the city’s inventory of future industrial lands, but the port didn’t lobby the city to do so.

“It was initiated by the city, as part of their comp plan,” Thomas said.

Including the port’s property helps the city satisfy its state mandate to provide adequate industrial lands for future jobs, he said. “As a long-term direction-setting document in the comp plan, it’s logical the city staff would include West Hayden Island as a place for future marine operations and natural resource protection.”

When the port withdrew its annexation request in January, Thomas said, “We said at the time it was not a ‘no,’ just a ‘not now.’ ”

Listing the property in the industrial lands inventory doesn’t mean the port will get more lenient terms should it want to develop the land in the future, he said.

“I would say it’s premature to gauge the level of requirements that would be placed on future development.”

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