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County planning commission advances Scappoose UGB plan

The highly contentious expansion of the urban growth boundary in Scappoose hopped over yet another hurdle Monday night when the Columbia County Planning Commission recommended its approval.

After hearing largely positive testimony from citizens, three of the five commissioners voted to recommend approval of the expansion to the Columbia County Board of Commissioners.

Chairman Guy Letourneau and commissioners Jeff VanNatta and Gayle Lee voted yes on the UGB proposal, with minor changes, while commissioners Terry Luttrel and Linda Hopper voted against it.

The proposed expansion would add 379 acres -mostly located around the airport - to the current boundary to enable additional industrial development.

Scappoose Mayor Scott Burge said expanding the industrial capabilities of the airport has always been the plan for the community.

'Back in the 1970s the word industrial was placed inside the name of the airport on purpose, as a gimmick,' Burge said. 'Our number-one priority has been economic development. Our goal as a city is to be open for business.'

Similarly, CalPortland spokesman Bob Short said the company had agreed not to mine the property it owned at the airport back in 2002 because of the city's vision for industrial development.

'We chose to bow to the will of the community,' Short said. 'We've seen a lot of ideas out here…but this is the one that's real.'

In addition, Brian Rosenthal, a local commercial property owner who has a portion of land included in the expansion, said viable commercial space for small and medium-sized businesses is actually scarce and anticipates being able to develop his portion of the land in the proposal quickly.

Mike Sheehan, a Scappoose attorney, said he opposed the ordinance because two investors would essentially control the majority of developable land on the east side of Scappoose.

Ed Freeman, president of Sierra Pacific, and Joe Weston, who developed much of Portland's Pearl District, are the primary stakeholders in the development.

Sheehan also voiced concerns about growing too fast, which he said would result in demand for more needs-based services and homelessness, as well as increased air and truck traffic.

Marie Gadotti, a Scappoose farmer, owns about 80 acres of agricultural land that she wants to be included in the proposal. Commercial and industrial expansion in the Scappoose area has made it more difficult to farm, she said.

'I'm not opposed to UGB expansion,' Gadotti said. 'But our ability to farm has been compromised.'

But Jeff Bennett, a lawyer for the city of Scappoose, said the Department of Land Conservation had openly stated that it would not approve an ordinance if her land - which has a better soil classification than land included in the proposal - were included.

The next step in the process will be for the Columbia County commissioners to either approve, approve with conditions or deny the ordinance and then return it to the city, which will then submit it to the Department of Land Conservation at the state level.

Citizens for a Livable Scappoose, a group opposed to expansion, secured signatures to put the issue on the ballot in the fall, where voters will ultimately have an opportunity to uphold or overturn the Scappoose City Council's 5-2 decision in March to approve the UGB expansion plan.