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Public safety training facility next for Scappoose

After announcing plans for a robust manufacturing and research campus in Scappoose, Portland Community College is also seeking review of a public safety training facility in the same vicinity.

A public training facility would be used by law enforcement, public safety responders and even TriMet.

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Glen Bolen of OTAK explains plans for a public safety training facility to be constructed in Scappoose by Portland Community College. “Portland Community College went through a significant amount of research to determine what was needed,” Glen Bolen, a rep for PCC with design and engineering firm OTAK, explained. “The idea is this scenario training is very unique, it lets real world responders look at real world situations, not just try it in classrooms.”

Bolen clarified that no shooting ranges are planned for the site.

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Portland Community College moving forward with public safety training facility near Scappoose airport. Glen Higgins, Columbia County's chief planner (pictured), said the project should be built to comply with standards for primary farmland and sensitive habitat overlay zones, including flood hazard, sensitive bird habitat, greenway, riparian corridors, wetlands, game habitat and a natural area overlay. As Columbia County commissioners reviewed plans for the 282-acre training center during a public hearing Wednesday morning, May 18, some said they were hearing about it for the first time.

A county staff report indicates the property PCC is looking at for development is owned by Airpark Development LLC. The parcel sits on unincorporated agricultural land east of the Scappoose urban growth boundary, outside city limits. It’s about 1.5 miles east of Highway 30, between a proposed airport industrial access road that also serves as the UGB line, and Jackson Creek, a staff report indicates.

The project comes with unique circumstances.

In 2013, state legislators changed state law specifically to accommodate PCC, allowing a public safety training facility in a community college zone as an outright permitted use. That means county commissioners and land use planners have little authority to review the project from a land use perspective.

Details of the project are still murky, but the site itself falls within several overlay zones.

Glen Higgins, chief planner, said the project should be built to comply with standards for primary farmland and sensitive habitat overlay zones, including flood hazard, sensitive bird habitat, greenway, riparian corridors, wetlands, game habitat and a natural area overlay. The site also houses Native American artifacts, according to one speaker and Commissioner Henry Heimuller.

“I’ve never been in a hearing like this, where the land use is already decided,” Higgins noted, adding that the college will need to submit a site design for review by the county’s planning commission at a public hearing.

Bolen said the project surfaced because of the timing of the recent legal resolution to the Scappoose UGB. The UGB was ultimately allowed to expand, giving way to the project’s potential, but a years-long court battle held up the process.

Joel Haugen, a Scappoose city councilor who attended Wednesday’s hearing, encouraged county officials to keep the city of Scappoose apprised, saying he was hearing about the project for the first time.

Commissioners tentatively approved the project, but will require that a public site design review hearing be held in Scappoose.