Ports to bide their time over land use

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

By ERIN MIDDLEWOOD, Columbian staff writer

Clark County, WA - Port officials say they're willing to be "patient investors" in Clark County's bid to expand its economic base.

A report developed by the Columbia River Economic Development Council envisions the ports helping to consolidate industrial land and prepare it for development.

Directors of the ports of Vancouver, Ridgefield and Camas-Washougal met with Clark County commissioners Tuesday to discuss the CREDC report, which will be incorporated into the county's updated 20-year growth plan.

County officials hope to lure employers to tip the jobs-versus-houses balance. An estimated 60,000 people head across the bridges every day to work in Oregon.

County commissioners have met with about 30 groups since CREDC delivered the report to the county last spring. Ports play a big role in the plan.

Scattered industrial land

Clark County has the largest reserve of industrial land in the Portland metro area, but much of that land is scattered, not served by utilities and covered with wetlands.

"There is the opportunity for the patient investor," said Larry Paulson, Vancouver's port director.

"We can be patient, but we are sort of limited," said Brent Grening, Ridgefield's port director. That port's land is especially constrained because of heavily contaminated soil at the former Pacific Wood Treating site.

Other environmental concerns and wetlands can prevent or delay development on port land.

Part of CREDC's proposed solution is wetland banking, in which large marshy areas are created in return for selling credits to developers filling wetlands nearby.

Skepticism expressed

Port of Camas-Washougal Director Sheldon Tyler expressed skepticism. Tyler said he fears that the rules would change and the port wouldn't be able to develop the land it had banked to compensate for.

The port directors, however, are firmly behind the CREDC's call call for quick, predictable permitting.

"We need to have the infrastructure in place and have it shovel-ready," Paulson said. "The time frames people are working with for development are shorter."


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