Lease to be presented to St. Helens City Council next week for vote and final approval during regular meeting

The St. Helens City Council will vote next week to ratify a lease agreement with a marijuana grow operation to use city-owned land on the former Boise Cascade Paper Mill property.

Following an executive session Wednesday, June 7, the council unanimously voted to have City Administrator John Walsh negotiate a ground lease agreement on city-owned property, with an option for purchase, with a marijuana grow operation.

If approved, ASCP LLC would lease a nine-acre property for 50 years with an option to purchase after seven years. The property currently has three vacant buildings on site, which are built atop a wood waste landfill, Walsh added.

ASCP is registered in Oregon as an incorporated business since February, and is an offshoot of a California company that operates several grow operations.

Walsh signed the lease. Next, it will be presented to City Council during its next meeting on June 21 for ratification.

The marijuana grow operation would be the first operated on city of St. Helens-owned land. Several others are currently in business in the city on private property.

The company would have to apply for a marijuana business license from the city, but no other fees associated with marijuana retail shops in St. Helens would apply. No retail sales would be permitted on site.

Walsh said the applicants favored the site because of its ease of access to electricity and water and sewer facilities. The high use of electricity "is a good thing for the city as well, with those franchise fees coming to the city," Walsh added.

The city receives franchise fees from power providers for permission to operate within city limits, including from Columbia River People's Utility District and Portland General Electric, the latter for electrical service provided to limited industrial areas within the city.

The grow operation would also be a municipal water customer.

"This is potentially a pretty decent enterprise opportunity for the city," Walsh added.

The lease will become a public document once it is signed, but there are no public hearings or community input sessions scheduled regarding it. The location of the property is in a heavy-industrial zone, which allows agriculture, nurseries and greenhouses, among other types of manufacturing.

The property is not near the Columbia River or any housing developments.

Walsh said the signing of the lease is a business deal, just like leasing to any other type of business, and a hearing is not required. Negotiations have been ongoing for at least six months, he said.

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