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City facing employment land shortage

Document says city needs additional 635 acres for industries, 74 acres for institutions


The City Council is expected to officially admit that city is facing a shortage of employment land for future development on Wednesday.

The shortage includes 635 acres of industrial land, with 356 acres needed in the Portland Harbor.

The admission is expected to complicate city efforts to preserve and increase natural lands in the harbor as part of the River Plan. It could also increase pressure on the council to annex West Hayden Island so that a portion of it can be developed by the Port of Portland.

The council is also looking at a 74-acre shortfall for institutions, such as hospitals.

The admission is happening during a highly-technical process of approving documents to be used during the state-required update of the city’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan. Cities are regularly required to update their so-called Comp Plans to assure they comply with all statewide land use planning goals overseen by the Department of Land Conservation and Development.

Goal 9 requires that cities maintain a supply of buildable land for economic development. Although the goal had not previously been applied to cities, the DLCD recently changed its rules to make them follow it.

To determine whether they meet this goal, cities are required to conduct an inventory and analysis of available lands called an Economic Opportunities Analysis. The current EOA was still in draft form when the council adopted the River Plan that required businesses in the harbor to preserve and restore more of their properties. A number of them challenged the plan before the Land Use Board of Appeal, arguing the draft EOA showed a shortage of industrial land in the harbor. LUBA sent a portion of the plan back to the council until the issue could be resolved.

One document scheduled to be approved by the council Wednesday is the final version of the EOA.

“The aggregated land need and supply numbers are assembled from the nine different 'employment geographies,' which are categories of employment land described in the EOA. Four of these geographies have expected employment land surplus, three have expected small deficits, and two have expected significant deficits. The two geographies with significant deficits are 'Columbia Harbor Industrial' with an expected deficit of 635 acres, and "institutions" with an expected deficit of 74 acres. Of the 635 acre industrial deficit, 356 acres are needed for harbor access land,” reads one of the documents to be adopted Wednesday.

This deficit must be eliminated in the final version of the Comp Plan that the city is expecting to submit to the DLCD next year.

Harbor businesses are already arguing that requiring them to preserve and restore more of their land will only increase the deficit. Perhaps the largest way for the council to close the gap is to approve the current West Hayden Island plan that allows the port to develop 300 acres.

But environmentalists are arguing that the council should continue implementing the River Plan and not approve the West Hayden Island Plan.

Finding a solution has been assigned to the Economic Development Policy Expert Group that is helping the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability update the Comp Plan. It has 25 members representing business, community and environmental interests.