Big business moves
A Culver business that was preparing to embark on a $10 million project that would have employed 75 to 100 people has left the community for Prineville.
John Knotek, owner of ICP Northwest, of Culver, said he was partnering with a Sisters company to convert cargo containers into housing units for mining operations, oil field work and emergency management.
"The first contract is for 255 units," said Knotek, who had been working with Culver Mayor Shawna Clanton to bring the business to Culver. "In less than 90 days, they have to get to Central America."
Instead, last week, Knotek decided that the temporary-use permit process would be too lengthy and uncertain.
"As fast as we came to create jobs and revenue for our community, it saddens us to say that we could not come to a positive position with the city's administration, and have been forced to move our business out of Culver and Jefferson County to an adjoining county and new location," he wrote in a letter to the Culver community.
Knotek had been working with Mid-Columbia Lumber Products to locate the operation in the old Seaswirl yard on 10th Street, which is zoned for industrial use.
The problem arose from the steps needed to obtain the conditional-use permit, said Clanton, who had been working with Knotek and Dan Meader, Culver city planner, for about six weeks.
"If we'd had a building big enough, he could have moved right in," she said.
"It's partly my fault," said Clanton, who didn't involve other city councilors or the Culver Planning Commission, "because I knew it would come before them and I didn't want them to be swayed by that."
Clanton and Meader tried to get a special 10-day work permit so that Knotek could start work, and had an emergency meeting of the Planning Commission.
"The steps we have to follow are not just state policies, but federal policies," she said.
"I think the bottom line was John just didn't have enough time," she said. "I'm disappointed this didn't happen here in Culver. I'm not going to say my city staff didn't do everything they could; they did, but it just came at the ninth hour."
However, Clanton sees a silver lining from the loss of the business. "The Planning Commission is setting up a fast track if something like this every happens again," she said.
Knotek anticipates setting up bus service to transport those who applied for work on the project to Prineville. He urged those affected by the company's exit to voice their opinions to the council, and help the city find ways to legally "work outside the box."