Astoria’s plans to join the Clatsop Enterprise Zone and expand the boundaries are beginning to crystallize.
City councilors approved a map Monday that showed what an expansion of the zone’s boundaries could look like in Astoria.
The map added North Tongue Point to the enterprise zone, as well as the Port of Astoria’s East Mooring Basin and some nearby property, a cluster of parcels not far to the south of the Old Youngs Bay Bridge, a section of downtown and a long stretch from downtown, through Port property, around Smith Point and over to Tapiola Park’s border along Youngs Bay.
A few more steps remain before Astoria is officially part of the enterprise zone and the proposed boundaries are finalized. The three entities that established the zone in 2015 — Clatsop County, the Port and Warrenton — must approve of any modifications.
Enterprise zones are a tool to encourage development, offering property tax exemptions for new businesses or businesses looking to expand. Oregon has 69 enterprise zones, most of them in rural areas. The zones do not supersede existing city codes and zoning restrictions.
Astoria city councilors rejected the enterprise zone in 2015 over qualms about partnering with the Port. But times have changed.
The City Council reconsidered joining the enterprise zone in March after a presentation by Hyak Maritime, a tug and barge-building company with plans to create a marine fabrication and repair facility at North Tongue Point. Hyak CEO Robert Dorn made a case for Astoria to join the enterprise zone and expand the boundaries to include Tongue Point.
City Councilor Cindy Price, who voted against the enterprise zone in 2015, now feels the Port is more stable, with better leadership in place. Two new councilors, Tom Brownson and Bruce Jones, have been enthusiastic in their support of the expansion.
Astoria’s decision is an exciting development for the Port.
“Timing is everything and this is the most opportune time to move forward with enterprise zones,” said Frank Spence, the president of the Port of Astoria Commission, who attended the City Council meeting Monday. The Port is in the process of upgrading the East Mooring Basin to accommodate more cruise ships, as well as other projects.
Still, in moving forward, the City Council differs from its partners in wanting to ensure hotels and motels are not eligible for enterprise zone incentives, an option Spence isn’t sure will be a possibility.
“There are four bodies involved now and it has to be uniform for all entities,” he said, pointing out that the Port has land reserved for a Marriott hotel within the proposed zone expansion. “So that question will be up in the air and will be debated later as to whether such a restriction can even happen.”
To date, no businesses in Clatsop County have taken advantage of the Clatsop Enterprise Zone, but new projects and expansions are on the horizon, especially with Astoria on board.
“No one has a project per se,” Estes told Brownson, who asked if anyone besides Hyak had approached the city about the zone expansion. “But they’re tracking the movement.”
Melanie Olson, with Business Oregon’s regional development office, believes several businesses in the downtown core could be eligible for enterprise zone incentives in the next few years.
“It does seem like there could be some in the downtown area that could use this tool,” she told councilors, pointing to Pilot House Distilling, Buoy Beer, Reach Break Brewing and Fort George Brewery.
“It seems like anything that brings a business in would be a good thing,” Mayor Arline LaMear said after the meeting. She voted in favor of joining the enterprise zone in 2015. “We’ve got a lot of empty buildings to fill.”