Local governments approve enterprise zone expansion

Clatsop County has approved expanding the Clatsop Enterprise Zone to include most of the Astoria waterfront, representing the final nod needed for the idea.

Commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday, Sept. 27, to approve the expansion, following Astoria, the Port of Astoria and Warrenton. The expansion will also include portions of downtown Astoria, the Port’s main waterfront, the East Mooring Basin and parts of the Youngs Bay waterfront.

Astoria rejected the enterprise zone in 2015 over qualms about partnering with the Port. City councilors reconsidered this year, while excluding hotels, motels and destination resorts from the tax incentive.

The shift came after a March presentation from Hyak Maritime CEO Robert Dorn. The enterprise zone will now feature industrial docks at North Tongue Point owned by the tug and barge building company, which plans to develop a maritime repair and fabrication center.

The enterprise zone offers three- to five-year tax breaks on improvements from eligible development projects. Enterprise zones are intended to attract businesses to areas experiencing economic hardship.

The primary beneficiaries will be manufacturers and other types of industries that are rare to the area, said Kevin Leahy, executive director of Clatsop Economic Development Resources.

“We just want to show in this discussion that this is a business-friendly community,” Leahy said.

In a letter handed to commissioners, the Sunset Empire Transportation District board expressed concerns about the expansion, citing possible traffic issues, a housing crunch and a lack of available workers.

“The businesses currently operating in Astoria have not been given the same kind of support to expand and succeed, why are new businesses more deserving?” the letter asked.

In other business Wednesday, commissioners:

• Took possession of a foreclosed Jeffers Garden property on G Road about a year ahead of schedule. The property was foreclosed in October, and the owners had two years to keep the property under state law.

But officials cited various sanitary and safety issues — including a lack of plumbing, water and electricity on the property that has often sheltered large amounts of people — as a reason to take possession earlier than expected. After a first-of-its kind hearing for the county earlier this month, commissioners directed staff to begin the process of taking it over.

The owner, Scott Wood, has 30 days to vacate the land.

• Accepted the deed to the property that holds the now-shuttered North Coast Youth Correctional Facility.

The state has owned the land, with an estimated value of $12.1 million, since 1996 and was required to hand the property back to the county after the closure. A $20 million bond in the November election would, if passed, remodel the facility into a new county jail.

• Appointed Brittany Bodway Israel, who owns the Dairy Queen on West Marine Drive, to the county Fair Board.

She will serve the remainder of the term vacated by Paul Mitchell, who resigned earlier this year. The term runs through 2019.

• Agreed to purchase a roughly $400,000 Gradall excavator for the county Public Works Department.

An excavator is a specialized machine used to dig ditches and perform other functions like debris removal, bridge work and culvert installation. The department has a 15-year-old machine that is experiencing many mechanical failures, wrote Ted McLean, assistant public works director, in an agenda item summary.