Oregon to continue efforts to develop industrial park

Kelly J. Kaczala

         Mayor Mike Seferian said at a meeting on Monday that the city will continue to pursue the development of a 400-acre industrial park in eastern Oregon, despite opposition from area property owners who want to protect the environmentally sensitive land on which there are old growth forests, wetlands and eagles’ nests.
        Many property owners from the area packed council chambers on June 14 demanding to know why the city was not transparent about the proposed industrial park. Seferian said he was on a tight timeline because a battery plant for electric vehicles wanted to find a location right away. A possible deal fell through after the city could not persuade enough property owners to sell their land.
        “Will you continue to pursue the industrializing of any parcels east of Stadium Road to the eastern city limit?” asked Beth Ackerman, one of several property owners who was approached by Seferian to see if they would sell their property.
        “You mean will we continue to seek options? Yes,” said Seferian. “Would we try to see if we could achieve the possibility of getting options for the land? Yes.”
Not over
         “This whole issue is not over,” said Ackerman, who is leading the effort to keep the city from developing the industrial park. “I know a lot of people are of the opinion that the city is not going to do the industrial park. The city is just not going to do the battery plant that was actively searching for a place. That’s why I’m asking you to clarify if you are going to continue to look in eastern Oregon for an industrial area so the citizens know that is your intent. Our desire is not to see the environment impacted in eastern Oregon. We are not anti-job, anti-union, which some people are trying to make it into. This is not a dead issue in my book and in a lot of peoples’ books. We’re just not going to sit back and trust that you’re going to drop this issue.”
        She reiterated from a previous meeting her desire for a liaison who could inform property owners of possible industrial development in the area.
        Ruth Price, also an opponent of the industrial park, asked Seferian, “Why do we need more heavy industry in Oregon?”
        “We’re a small area, and we have so much already,” she said.
Revenue loss
        Seferian said the city needs to expand its tax base. Oregon stands to lose $3 million to $4 million from the refineries.
        “That’s net profit taxes from the refineries in the next five years. So something has to replace that if you want to keep the same city services. If we do nothing, everyone will say, `Why don’t you do something?’ So we’re trying to have more options.”
        “Then cut services. Don’t give us more industry,” said Price.
        Seferian said property taxes do not fund garbage pickup services provided by the city.
        “So every other service that you get comes from business and industry,” he said.      “And if we do not have the business and industry, we will not have continued city services you currently enjoy. We run short some years to do all of the city services. Now we’re going to be down $3 to $4 million from the refineries. If they scale back because more electric cars come in and they’re down 30 percent, we would be down even more - $6-$8 million. We assembled that land out there in hopes we could find something that isn’t too invasive, that may employ 3,000 people, which is $3 million in payroll income tax.”
        He said the city did not “force anything down anyone’s throat” to sell their properties.
        “Will this change someone’s lifestyles? It could. But we didn’t force anything down anyone’s throat, like we’re accused of. We’re trying to get options. If we don’t, we’re going to be short of money. Will we continue? Yes. That’s the only site in Oregon that has ample power, ample gas, ample water, a rail service, and more than 200 acres,” he said.
        Seferian added that the city cannot find another 300-acre parcel in the city to develop an industrial park.
        “If we could have found it, we would have done it. Do you think I took pleasure disrupting everyone out there? No. It’s the only parcel that exists in the city that would work for the (electric battery) project,” said Seferian.


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