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Year in Review: St. Helens works through land purchases

   After obtaining more than 220 acres of property combined from Boise Casacades and Boise White Paper, the city of St. Helens is slowly, but surely, moving forward with plans to redevelop the city’s waterfront property.

St. Helens finalized purchase of the 17-acre Boise Cascades veneer property for $2.64 million in July, a year and a half after discussions began in February 2014. Several acres of that land belonging to the Oregon Department of Transportation were purchased by the city for $100,000 in December.

In early September, crews from the city’s Public Works Department created a mile-long walking trail across the property, giving St. Helens residents access to the waterfront for the first time since the veneer plant closed in 2008.

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - Lorelei Juntunen, ECONorthwest project director; Ken Pirie, Walker Macy senior associate; Saumya Kini, Walker Macy design assistant; and City Administrator John Walsh have a discussion near the St. Helens waterfront property where the Boise Cascade veneer plant once existed. The various consultants, who are working with Seth Otto of the firm Maul Foster Alongi to develop a waterfront plan, took a two-hour tour to see the site and brainstorm development ideas.The city also approved a $3 million purchase of the 205-acre paper mill site from Boise White Paper, just south of the veneer sight in September. The property is an active industrial-use property where Cascades Tissue Group currently operates. While paperwork for the purchase was approved by the City Council in July, a former Boise White Paper employee speaking to the Spotlight on the condition of anonymity reported that hundreds of 55-gallon oil-slicked drums has been dumped on the property, buried, and paved over. The purchase was postponed until the Department of Environmental Quality could investigate. Paperwork for the purchase was finalized by Mayor Randy Peterson in September.

The city received a $200,000 Environmental Protection Agency grant in March to survey and analyze brownfield sites, or sites that have been potentially contaminated by former industrial use. The grant money was used to approve a contract with Maul Foster Alongi, a Portland-based consulting firm, to assess the land and develop a master plan over the next year.

Additionally, a $40,000 area-wide planning project to determine the economic impact of establishing a roadway from Highway 30 to the waterfront property was jointly funded by the Port of St. Helens and the city in May.

A series of public meetings are scheduled to begin in March 2016 to encourage public participation and involvement with the planning process for waterfront development.