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City negotiates with Boise over property

by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: KATIE WILSON - Though he said could not comment on details of ongoing negotiations with Boise Cascade, St. Helens City Administrator John Walsh says the city is interested in acquiring the company's property, site of a former veneer plant, near downtown St. Helens. The city of St. Helens is in negotiations with Boise Cascade over property the company has listed for sale along the Columbia River.

“It’s something that makes sense for the city,” said St. Helens City Administrator John Walsh on Jan. 24.

A price has not been established at this time, he said, and discussions are ongoing.

“We don’t have a piece of paper authorizing the agreement yet,” Walsh said.

The 17-acre property, the site of the company’s old veener plant which closed in 2008, is valued and listed for sale at $3 million. It abuts the city’s waterfront park and stretches south along the river.

The city has long had its eye on the property, seeing it as an opportunity to expand public waterfront and water-use activities.

At a meet-and-greet with Mary Abrams, the new director of the Oregon Department of State Lands, Jan. 24, St. Helens City Councilor Keith Locke and Mayor Randy Peterson acknowledged ongoing negotiations with Boise Cascade and asked Abrams what kind of permits DSL might require for the city to install marinas at the property.

State Sen. Betsy Johnson, speaking to Abrams, said the city hopes to put together a vision plan and a team of investors and partners for the property.

“They’re talking to folks who have pretty deep pockets,” she said.

Afterwards, Walsh said he could not go into details about the negotiations since the city has not entered into a formal purchasing agreement with Boise Cascade. But, he added, “They want us as a buyer because we have the ability to get things done in the public arena that a private purchaser would have a hard time with.”

In the past, the city has talked about hopes for city parks, public docks and even a maritime heritage center at the property.

Peterson said the land is zoned industrial, but the city passed an overlay zone for commercial/residential use in 2009, providing more flexibility for future development plans.

Greg Sanders, Boise Cascade’s director of strategic planning and real estate, would not comment on the city’s interest, saying only that the company has not signed an agreement with anyone yet and, “People have shown general interest [in the property].”

Boise Cascade has been removing equipment and buildings left standing from the veneer plant operations and plans to continue this work over the next couple of months, he said.