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Watchdog group further appeals port rezone application

Columbia Riverkeeper, a nonprofit environmental watchdog group, has filed an appeal to re-examine a state Land Use Board of Appeals decision on the request to rezone nearly 840 acres of primary farmland near Port Westward in Clatskanie.

The appeal was filed in September. An opening brief from Columbia Riverkeeper was submitted last week.

On Aug. 27, LUBA ruled that Columbia County should not have approved an application by the port to rezone the high-quality agriculture land to industrial land for planned development.

LUBA remanded the application back to the county. Columbia Riverkeeper applauded the LUBA ruling, but has appealed it to the Oregon Court of Appeals, asking the court to review LUBA’s decision and uphold all of its findings, with one exception.

Lauren Goldberg, a staff attorney with Columbia Riverkeeper, said the nonprofit doesn’t believe LUBA considered whether the original rezoning application complies with the state transportation planning rule.

Goldberg said industrial development would have significant impacts on traffic in the region due to increased rail activity in Clatskanie.

“We want the Court of Appeals to take another look at this issue, which wasn’t remanded,” Goldberg said. “What is it going to do to commuters, to emergency vehicles ... to school bus routes? It affects everyone who drives on roads that are crossed by the rail line.”

Goldberg explained that while the appeal is being processed, no action can be taken on the Port of St. Helens’ application.

“The court will decide whether to send this transportation rail issue back to the county or to uphold the [LUBA] decision,” Goldberg explained.

She said she expects the Court of Appeals could take months to make a decision.

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