Residents choose to continue Scappoose UGB expansion process, dissolve Columbia Health District
by: Stover E. Harger III FUTURE GROWTH — This open land by the Scappoose Industrial Airpark could one day see industrial growth if plans to expand the city’s UGB are implemented. This process will take some time officials say following a related vote last week.

Scappoose residents who turned out for the Sept. 20 election voted 609 to 536 not to roll back an earlier City Council decision in favor of an urban growth boundary expansion proposal.

A total 53.19 percent of the 1,145 people who voted on Measure 5-216 said they want the UGB proposal to continue through the regulatory process.

Voters also last week decided overwhelmingly to dissolve the beleaguered Columbia Health District. The vote on Measure 5-217 was 5,268 to 506 in favor of dissolution.

However, voters may be confused as to what happens next in these long, ongoing processes.

UGB expansion a lengthy process

The UGB proposal is still at the county level. County Commissioners are expected to pass on the plans to expand the city's boundaries by 378 acres, mostly by the airport, to the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development by the end of November.

But residents concerned or anxious to see land development or the annexation process begin will have to wait some time before any changes are felt, said Scappoose City Manager Jon Hanken.

Hanken said based on estimated timelines, state officials will probably not even begin examining the proposal until January. An appeals process is in the future as well, giving residents more time to voice concerns over the, for some, controversial proposal to grow the city.

Scappoose residents must eventually vote for land in the UGB to be added to city limits.

'There is still a lengthy process,' Hanken said. 'Nothing moves fast.'

Last week's 91.1 percent vote to dissolve the Columbia Health District is not the final word on the district, which was formed in 2004 with the purpose of planning for and building a new hospital. The accompanying tax rate in the district was 38 cents per $1,000.

The Columbia Health District board must now cast its own vote to dissolve. Upon doing so, it has the option of naming itself as trustee to satisfy outstanding debts, if any, and dispense of the district's assets, or it could name the Columbia County Board of Commissioners to serve in that capacity.

Tammy Maygra, the district board chair, said there is unfinished business to wrap up before the dissolution vote, foremost being the fate of the Millard Road property.

'All I can say is we're seeing what our options are for the Millard Road property,' Maygra said. She said the board is meeting Friday with an attorney to discuss those options.

Maygra said her board intends to craft a dissolution plan over the next three weeks to meet a 30-day dissolution timeline. She added the board dissolution vote would not be needlessly delayed.

'We're not going to mess around,' she said.

Oregon law specifies that dissolved district assets such as cash, computer hardware and supplies go to the county in which the district is located. In this case, any leftover money would post in the Columbia County coffers as unrestricted funds.

Property, on the other hand, goes to the municipality that has jurisdiction on the land. As far as the Millard Road property is concerned, that means it goes to the city of St. Helens. City residents had earlier annexed the Millard Road property into the city in anticipation of the hospital being built there.

The city owns property identified for parks adjacent and north of the Millard Road site.

The Gable Road property and building, which housed Columbia Health District and County County Public Health headquarters, was transferred to county control prior to July.

Columbia County Commissioner Henry Heimuller said he wants to meet with St. Helens officials to discuss options for the 8.35-acre site, including whether the city is interested in selling the land and using any resultant money to bolster the county's public health services.

'If it's going to some other district for some other use, the people who paid tax money into the health district would be disappointed,' he said. The health district includes property south to Scappoose and north to Deer Island.

As of press time no meeting had been set.

The former health district board, which transferred out prior to July, had filed a dissolution plan with the county in May. The plan references transfer of the Gable Road site, but there is no mention of how the Millard Road property would be liquidated. It does indicate the county commissioners would be named as trustees.

The plan is not legally binding, however.

Despite the fact the commercial real estate market has dimmed since the property was purchased via a three-way land swap in 2006, the most recent valuation for the Millard Road property and its improvements is $3.3 million.

That, Maygra said, is money she would like to see returned to health district taxpayers.

'We want to make sure we do for the public what they wanted, which is get some credit back for their taxes,' she said.

She said the health board has little interest to transfer additional funds to the Public Health Foundation of Columbia County, the nonprofit that was transferred operational oversight of public health prior to the new health district board taking over in July.

St. Helens city officials said they are open to discussing the fate of Millard Road, including using any revenue from its sale to improve public health services in the county.

'That's not a bad idea,' said Mayor Randy Peterson. 'The money was collected through a taxing district, and everybody has an interest in it.'

Measure 5-216

Scappoose UGB expansion proposal

609 YES

536 No

Measure 5-217

Health District dissolution

5,268 YES

506 No

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