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Economic planners eye regional sites marketing power


Economic development officials in Columbia and Clatsop counties are seeking buy-in from local communities to participate in state legislation allowing the designation of land for long-term industrial use.

The purpose is to attract industrial investors on the promise of a quick land-use review turnaround and a guarantee, of sorts, local designations for those properties could not be altered once established.

The legislation, approved under Senate Bill 766 in the 2011 Legislature, was intended to bolster development through the recent economic downturn. It established the Economic Recovery Review Council, which answers to the governor, for approving such regionally significant sites and for hearing applications from businesses that want to build on those identified lands.

Critics of SB 766 say the legislation has had the effect of stripping local control and compromising new environmental regulations on the included land.

Developers seeking application would still have to meet local and state land-use rules, though the legislation narrows the list of those who have legal standing to oppose specific site developments and establishes for appeals to occur through the state circuit court instead of the Land Use Board of Appeals.

David Stocker, executive director for Columbia County Economic Team, pitched the concept to St. Helens and Scappoose city councils over the last two weeks and plans to take the proposal north into Clatsop County.

Oregon land-use rules sometimes result in drawn-out processes, Stocker said, and are too often a deterrent for prospective businesses.

'It does, in essence, become another marketing tool in your kit,' Stocker told the St. Helens City Council at its Feb. 1 work session. He presented the draft proposal to the Scapppoose City Council at Monday's meeting. Scappoose council passed a resolution move forward with the concept, though St. Helens council said it required further exploration.

Stocker, with the aid of Columbia Pacific Economic Development District, assembled a draft list of nine properties that could be included in the Columbia River West Industrial Corridor, including six in Columbia County. Stocker said the groundwork has largely already occurred for the proposal and that the Columbia-Clatsop county region, with its access to available industrial sites and infrastructure, is a likely candidate for approval.

Columbia River West Industrial Corridor

Nine properties included in Columbia River West Industrial Corridor draft outline of Regionally Significant Industrial Areas. Those properties include: Scappoose Industrial Airpark (Scappoose), McNulty Creek and Multnomah Industrial Parks (St. Helens), Rail Corridor (St. Helens), Columbia City Industrial Park (Columbia City) and Port Westward Industrial Park (Clatskanie).