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Lingering UGB decision in Scappoose stifles growth plans

Officials, landowners await Court of Appeals decision as PCC deadlines near


by: SUBMITTED - This conceptual illustration shows Airpark Development LLC's aspirations for Scappoose Industrial Airpark. A regional training facility had been envisioned for 200 acres in the northwest quadrant of airport-adjacent land, and PCC has considered construction of an education center on 20 acres north of the runway's eastern termination. Land-use approval delays have likely compromised PCC's commitment to build in Scappoose, for now.As prime real estate adjacent to the Scappoose airport remains deadlocked pending the outcome of a legal appeal, some are worried the lengthy process could compromise the city’s economic future.

Ed Freeman co-owns Airpark Development LLC, which includes 365 acres next to the airport that the city of Scappoose tried to include in its urban growth boundary via an expansion. Initially, Portland Community College eyed the Scappoose airport as a viable site for both an educational center and a regional public safety training facility.

The UGB expansion was challenged by Pat Zimmerman, a former Scappoose resident who has a history of working with 1000 Friends of Oregon on contested land-use decisions in the state, and Scappoose resident and attorney Mike Sheehan. Both claimed the city publicized unrealistic projections for job creation and economic stimulus in its attempt to expand development.

The Scappoose City Council initially OK'd the UGB expansion in a 5-2 vote in March 2011. Later that year, 53 percent of voters came out in favor of the UGB plan. The expansion also survived a March 2012 appeal through the state’s Department of Land Conservation and Development.

The city now awaits a trial date on the UGB expansion before the Oregon Court of Appeals. After years of uncertainty with the airport land, PCC is now evaluating its options for a new facility, but not necessarily in Scappoose.

“It’s something we’ve been deeply involved in, and we’re just almost sickened by all these delays,” Freeman said of his attempts to bring the PCC developments to the airport. “It would be a shame if it ends up going to some other community because of these appeals. It’s our feeling that everyone in Scappoose would love to see the community college presence here.”

Earlier this month, Sandra Fowler-Hill, campus president at PCC’s Rock Creek campus, pledged that the college would build in Columbia County by 2017.

PCC officials say its stakeholders will help determine the types of programs needed, and an appropriate development location will then be evaluated by the college.

As PCC polls the community, Freeman and city officials aren’t sure whether the college will still pursue Scappoose as a preferred building site.

Scappoose City Manager Larry Lehman said he’s uncertain about the legal proceedings for the UGB.

“Our attorney has requested an expedited trial,” Lehman said earlier this month, adding that he hasn’t been in contact with PCC representatives.

Scappoose Mayor Scott Burge shares Freeman’s concerns and hopes to see the college in his city.

“If you look across the country at places where there’s higher education, economic development is usually quicker,” Burge said. “It’d be really nice for the appeals court to set a date for the UGB. It’s been sitting there for quite a while, and PCC is on a deadline.”

PCC continues to meet with Columbia County educators, students, business owners and other affected residents to find out what kinds of services are needed in the region.

“Once this critical academic planning is concluded, we’ll begin in earnest to evaluate location options,” Cate Soulages, communications director at PCC, said Monday. “The site chosen must serve the identified academic needs and ideally would include an ability to expand programs in the future.”

The project will be paid for using revenue from a bond initiative that voters approved in 2008.

Soulages said PCC hopes to have key decisions made about the Columbia County educational center by 2015.

While PCC explored the possibility of a law enforcement training center near the Scappoose airport, Concordia University has recently completed its own simulation center.

Concordia is slated to open its homeland security simulation center at its Columbia River campus near Portland International Airport this fall.

Madeline Turnock, a spokeswoman for Concordia, touted the new facility as a state-of-the-art training center.

Turnock said the college added the facility “directly in response to the job market and the need” for places where existing and prospective law enforcement agents could practice real-world scenarios, a model that mirrors earlier considerations for a 200-acre training facility at the Scappoose airport.

Soulages said plans for a PCC-owned law enforcement training center are still “conceptual” and the college is instead focusing on expanded educational facilities in Columbia County.

Freeman said PCC was first considering building both types of centers adjacent to each other in Scappoose. He said he hopes the college follows through with the idea, characterizing Concordia’s newest project in Portland as “woefully inadequate” for regional needs.

Whatever the college decides to do, Freeman hopes to see a court of appeals decision handed down before PCC officials decide on a location for the educational center by 2015.

“Scappoose is losing because of these delays,” Freeman said. “It’s been a little bit of a difficult, frustratingly quiet process.”

The property owner said if the college doesn’t build there, he and the other owner, Joe Weston, would develop the targeted property as an aviation business park.

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