Astoria Pointe

Pacific Seafood wants to house up to 80 workers inside Astoria Pointe, a former drug treatment center in Uniontown.

Pacific Seafood’s housing proposal at Astoria Pointe narrowly avoided denial Tuesday, even after the company lowered the number of workers it hopes to house in the former drug treatment center from 125 to 80.

The company argues the housing is necessary to help fully staff its Warrenton plant, reopened in 2018 five years after being destroyed by fire. The plant is running with 100 workers but can go up to 300. The company buses many workers in to sustain the workforce.

Many of the workers who would live at Astoria Pointe would be international and on seven-month worker visas, said Michael Miliucci, an attorney and special projects manager for Pacific Seafood who has been securing housing along the Oregon and Washington state coasts. The company was recently approved for a 70-bed dorm in part of a metal fabrication shop it owns in Hammond, which Miliucci said would take a year to retrofit.

Pacific Seafood would use shuttles to take people from Astoria Pointe to work and shopping. Miliucci noted that Astoria Pointe once housed 78 people.

Amid heavy opposition from neighbors and questioning from the Astoria Planning Commission, the company agreed to 13 conditions of approval, including a good-neighbor agreement that would limit the housing to 80 workers. The company would allow no more than 13 private vehicles to park on-site, and none along surrounding streets.

The Planning Commission proposed other conditions Tuesday, including a designated smoking area outside, compliance with the city’s noise ordinances and the guarantee of someone on-site to respond as immediately as possible to neighborhood concerns.

Garrett Stephenson, an attorney representing Pacific Seafood, said the company would accept the conditions, but asked for a straw poll of where planning commissioners stood before incorporating the new language.

The Planning Commission was down to four members Tuesday with the absences of Commissioner Brookley Henri and Commissioner Chris Womack, and the recusal of Vice President Sean Fitzpatrick over conflicts of interest related to past work at Astoria Pointe. President Daryl Moore and commissioners Cindy Price, Patrick Corcoran and David Kroening appeared headed toward a split decision that would have resulted in the denial of Pacific Seafood’s temporary use application after a four-hour continuation of public hearings.

Price, who leaned toward opposition along with Corcoran, took issue with the 13 conditions of approval and other unmet development code standards she felt made such a large worker housing proposal unworkable in a residential neighborhood.

“While I can see that … it’s certainly in Warrenton’s interest, and perhaps in a broader (sense) Astoria as a city’s interest, because we are so well-connected and because Pacific Seafood is an important business to all of us here on the North Coast, I don’t see at all how it is in the smaller community’s interest,” Price said.

Corcoran cited safety, parking and access concerns for the neighborhood that outweighed the benefit of adding workforce housing to the region.

Kroening felt the application with the conditions passed muster but was open to more stringent requirements for Pacific Seafood, such as not allowing any private vehicles or guests at Astoria Pointe to appease people’s concerns. He questioned whether the 15-person shuttle buses Pacific Seafood plans to use for workers would be any more obtrusive than the large pickup trucks he sees driving around the neighborhood.

“I have certainly leaned toward approval of this application with all of the conditions applied,” Moore said. “However, there’s a lot of conditions, and that’s also kind of a red flag for me. When we’re talking about a conditional use that has a long list of conditions, it almost seems like it actually doesn’t fit in the neighborhood.”

Kroening wondered if there was a number of workers allowed that would change Price’s and Corcoran’s minds. The Planning Commission toyed with the idea of reopening the public hearing Tuesday to ask Pacific Seafood and the community what number of workers they could accept.

But City Manager Brett Estes dissuaded them, worried the city could not meet the April deadline for completing the review of Pacific Seafood’s application through the Planning Commission and City Council.

Estes, who negotiated with Pacific Seafood’s representatives in a separate room Tuesday before returning to the meeting, said the company wanted the right of final written rebuttal to the Planning Commission by Tuesday. He hatched a plan to continue deliberations until Feb. 25, when planning commissioners would deliberate and vote on whether to recommend approval or denial of the application.

Edward Stratton is a reporter for The Astorian. Contact him at 971-704-1719 or estratton@dailyastorian.com.

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(3) comments

Scott Fenton

This is a terrible idea. The thought of placing 80 temporary workers right in the middle of a densely populated neighborhood of families, children, and elderly people is simply wrong.

“Many of the workers who would live at Astoria Pointe would be international and on seven-month worker visas”, said Michael Miliucci, an attorney and special projects manager for Pacific Seafood. So how does this solve the housing shortage for residents of Astoria? Astoria Pointe is not available to the general public, only temporary Pacific Seafood workers. The answer is, it doesn’t.

During testimony on January 28th Pacific Seafood stated, “the residents will cook meals in their shared rooms using hot plates and crockpots.” Is this any way to live? Basically, this is a “Barracks” style housing with numerous workers jam packed inside with little room to move. Are they all going to share the limited number of bathrooms and showers at this small facility? Seems like OSHA might have something to say about this.

There would also be no janitorial staff to keep the facility clean and safe. Do you think these temporary workers are going to vacuum, scrub the floors, and clean toilets after working ten hours at the seafood plant?

Apparently, there will only be 13 cars allowed on the small property. The means the workers will be dependent on the company’s small shuttle vans to transport them to work and back 24x7. They are basically trapped at Astoria Pointe unless they choose to walk somewhere. How are they going to purchase and store food? There are no grocery stores anywhere near Astoria Pointe.

Finally, the amount of cars, air pollution, noise, and foot traffic would significantly increase and alter the composition of this peaceful little part of Astoria. I strongly oppose this idea.

Tabor Porter

Did I understand the people working for Pacific Seafood would get an hourly wage way below minimum wage. Also along with that they are set in housing they can’t get away from without busing. Is this a SLAVE LABOR situation that the city is thinking of being a party to. I think that would be horrifying.

Barry Plotkin

It is my belief that neither the City of Astoria nor Pacific Seafoods would be complicit in a conspiracy to allow "slave labor." Seafood processing is cold, difficult work, with a very high degree of danger. Without local facilities where they can eat, sleep, shower, and rest after work, seafood processing employees are forced to make unreasonably long commutes. The Astoria Pointe proposal is designed to improve the lives of these workers and not to degrade them. Furthermore, while a greatly diminished industry in our town, we need to support the local seafood processing plants that have chosen to remain. I am firmly convinced that the conditional use application by Pacific Seafoods for Astoria Pointe should be approved.

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