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Environmental problems run deep in Troutdales future tourist site

More cleanup required before development can begin on Troutdales urban renewal site


by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Eastwinds Development, owned by the Yoshida Group, has big plans for the former industrial site in Troutdale.At a meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 21, developers updated City Council about their plans to restore and develop the riverfront property in Troutdale’s urban renewal district.

For the past three years, Eastwind Development, a subsidiary of the Yoshida Group, has been working with the city and state agencies to clean up the 20-acre property and brownfield site behind the city’s factory outlet mall and on the west side of the Sandy River.

Using funding from federal and state grants, including a $200,000 brownfield grant the city received last summer, the EPA and DEQ have been testing the site for contaminated soil and groundwater on both the 12-acres of city-owned land and adjacent 8-acres of land owned by Eastwinds.

Voters passed the city’s first and only urban renewal district in 2006. It encompasses the former sewage treatment plant and adjacent rundown industrial property.

Eastwind developers plan to buy the city’s property and develop the entire site into a full-fledged recreation destination similar to Hood River in the Gorge, with the idea it will entice active-minded visitors to flock to an upscale hotel, restaurant, event center and waterfront boardwalk developers plan to build.

The plan also includes bicycle and pedestrian paths that run along the Sandy River, a pier and dock for water access, and a bridge over railroad tracks to connect the riverside property to downtown retail businesses. It also plans to restore and keep the historic water tower on the property.

Problems in the dirt

However, Glenn Leier, general counsel at the Yoshida Group and project manager Ron Garzini, told counselors Tuesday that developers have run into environmental problems on both properties.

The biggest issue, they said, is a pool of animal carcasses discovered 5-feet deep and spanning a half-acre on one of the properties, which will likely need to be removed, said Garzini, costing around $611,000.

Other options include not removing the carcasses and covering the area with a building or parking lot, which would cost less, around $526,000 or $376,000, respectively.

But Garzini said if the carcasses are not removed, the EPA and DEQ would likely require continuous monitoring of ground water.

Also, if ever the remains drifted into the river, developers fear it could earn them a bad reputation.

“I think it’s in our interest and public interest to remove the carcasses,” Garzini said.

Mayor Doug Daoust and the council agreed to work together with developers to apply for state grants to fund the carcass removal.

Re-zoning

Due to the site’s environmental issues, developers said the site would likely need to be re-zoned from commercial use on the city-owned property and mixed-use/residential on the Eastwinds property to commercial use only for the entire site.

The DEQ has advised developers against a “multi-family component” on the property.

Residential uses require a higher standard of clean up, said developers and both they and councilors agreed putting houses where kids might dig in contaminated dirt is “not worth it.”

Optimistic future

Eastwinds also announced it had received a $15,000 grant from Metro — the Nature and Neighborhoods Grant Study — which it would match, along with $12,400 more in donations, to study the waterfront along the Sandy River and create a master plan for its restoration and future public access.

Developers hope to bring studies on the site to a close by 2014, and begin the next stages of development, including purchasing the city’s land and finding a hotel interested in moving in.

The Troutdale City Council and the mayor appear eager to move the project forward.

“We shouldn’t delay on anything that holds this up,” said Councilor David Ripma.

Daoust said he loves public and private partnerships.

“This has the potential to be a very huge benefit for Troutdale,” Mayor Daoust said.




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