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Scappoose asks voters to change annexation process

City officials say election requirement steers away business opportunities

COURTNEY VAUGHN - Should Scappoose residents decide to undo the 1999 vote requiring all annexations to go through a popular vote prior to approval, properties such as the Cinnamon Tree Business Park, seen here, that abut the Scappoose city limits could be annexed following approval of the city's Planning Commission and City Council.

Scappoose voters will be asked to consider scrapping the city’s current annexation process in November.

City councilors voted Monday, Aug. 3, to refer a measure to voters that would remove the requirement for any new property annexation requests to be approved by voters. If voters approve the change, all future annexation requests would be heard by the city’s Planning Commission before being vetted by the City Council at a public hearing.

Scappoose is one of the few cities in the state that requires an election to be held proir to an annexation, Scappoose City Manager Michael Sykes said. The process has become cumbersome for property owners and business tenants, city officials said.

“One of the things that’s important for companies is certainty and time,” Sykes said Wednesday. “They need to be able to move through a planning process so they can build a facility and produce a product. I think the City Council feels that our current process is a disadvantage to our efforts to produce economic growth in Scappoose.”

One of the catalysts for the change was likely Portland Community College. The college plans to build an educational facility in the county by 2017 and has long eyed Scappoose as the best fit.

PCC initially expressed interest in property at Scappoose Industrial Airpark, outside the city’s urban growth boundary. An ongoing lawsuit over whether the city should be allowed to add 380 acres of land to its UGB still awaits a decision from the Oregon Court of Appeals, according to Sykes.

Sykes said the college hasn’t told the city exactly where it plans to develop, but some of the viable properties are just outside city limits.

Aside from PCC, the city’s current requirements stifle its ability to attract new businesses that could provide jobs, Sykes said. If a property owner wanted to develop a property and hook up to the city’s sewer and water services, an annexation vote would delay the process significantly and the property owner or developer would have to pay for election costs.

“It’s clearly wasting city resources,” Mayor Scott Burge said of the current process. “It’s dragging down the city’s ability to recruit potential players that may want to locate inside the UGB but outside city limits.”

Representatives for PCC said the college hasn’t decided on a particular location, but college officials are narrowing down property options this summer.

Last month, the council voted to approve an annexation request from Scappoose Holding, LLC., for 22.4 acres at Scappoose-Vernonia Road at Bellcrest Road. The council then adopted an ordinance Monday that will forward the annexation request to voters in the November election. If added, the property will become zoned for light industrial use, according to a city staff report.