Jim Knight, the executive director of the Port of Astoria, is hoping the Astoria City Council will designate the entire waterfront an enterprise zone.
Enterprise zones provide a state property tax break for three to five years for manufacturers, processors, shippers, call centers and headquarters. Hotel and resort businesses are also eligible in some enterprise zones.
Clatsop County, Warrenton and the Port in 2015 partnered to create the Clatsop Enterprise Zone covering clusters of industrial and commercial properties around Warrenton, Hammond, Miles Crossing, Jeffers Garden, the Astoria Regional Airport and Knappa.
The Astoria City Council rejected involvement in the enterprise zone over mistrust of the Port, preventing properties along the waterfront from taking advantage of potential tax breaks.
Hyak Maritime recently purchased North Tongue Point, an industrial dock on the eastern edge of Astoria, and replaced the Port as operator, hoping to create a marine fabrication and repair facility. The City Council has expressed interest in expanding the enterprise zone to help the development. The expansion needs to be approved by the state.
“I have heard clearly that there is an intention of Tongue Point, and perhaps even our East Mooring Basin,” Knight said of the city’s deliberations. “But I just think our community would be remiss not to take advantage of the rest of the waterfront.”
Knight has pushed for more public-private partnerships to refurbish the Port’s aging, crumbling properties. He successfully campaigned for eastern Astoria to be one of the 86 census tracts designated as opportunity zones by the state. The federal designation could lead to an infusion of money by investors hoping to lower their capital gains tax burden.
Knight said he plans to speak with Astoria’s city manager about further expanding the enterprise zone and potentially enlist Port commissioners to help sway the city.
Frank Spence, president of the Port Commission, said he is pleased to see the city revisiting enterprise zones, considering how many properties in Warrenton are already taking part.
The Port Commission on Tuesday approved a $12 million operating budget, including nearly $3 million in personnel services, $2.3 million in capital investments, $1.6 million in debt service payments and nearly $4.4 million in materials and services. Most of the Port’s revenue comes from operations and grants, but a small portion will come from countywide property taxes of 12.56 cents per $1,000 of assessed value also approved by the Port Commission.
Not included was up to $70,000 the Port’s budget committee had considered for a feasibility study by Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce to turn much of the Skipanon Peninsula into a wetland mitigation bank. Knight said he wants to hash out any potentially volatile issues around the project with members of the task force, made up of a council of local government representatives, before proceeding with the project.