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Economic and dam related articles

City Annexes Alcoa Property

by Chad Abraham
Gresham Outlook, March 2, 2007

Port eyes 569-acre site as future home for industry, trails

TROUTDALE - City councilors Tuesday night had a message for Port of Portland officials: Welcome to town.

The City Council voted unanimously to annex nearly 569 acres so the port can develop an industrial park on the site once occupied by the Reynolds Metals smelter. The land is now owned by Alcoa, which recently demolished the smelter plant and cleaned up the toxic-waste site. The company has agreed to sell the land to the port.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which still must issue a final ruling on the cleanup, deemed the property a Superfund site in 1994. The waste was created by "past plant operations and disposal practices," says a planning report presented to councilors Tuesday, Feb. 27.

Mayor Paul Thalhofer praised the speed of Alcoa's clean-up efforts, and other councilors said acquiring the land is critical for Troutdale's long-term future.

The approval is a "major step forward" for bringing jobs and industry to town, said Councilor Norm Thomas. Councilor Jim Kight, noting that the port will utilize land that had been languishing, called the vote a "win-win for all parties."

Port officials envision an industrial area similar to the Rivergate Industrial District in north Portland. Jim Laubenthal, corporate planning and development manager at the port, is overseeing the project. Troutdale could expect as much as $1 million in new property taxes annually after the site is built out, he told the council, calling the figure a rough estimate.

After the approval, Laubenthal said there are a wide range of options for the land near the confluence of the Columbia and Sandy rivers. Preliminary plans call for a mix of distribution, warehousing and light industrial uses. Trails along the property's levy that would link with the 40-mile regional trail system may also be built, Laubenthal said.

But there is no guarantee the land, assessed at $9.7 million, will be developed.

"We're really subject to the marketplace," Laubenthal said, noting that the port doesn't construct buildings. Port officials originally wanted a rail yard on the site, a proposal that was shot down by the Troutdale, Fairview and Wood Village city councils.

With the annexation of the land and Northwest Sundial Road, the planning report says any additional tax revenue will be offset by "providing the full range of urban services." The city's police department will serve the area, and Troutdale will contract with Gresham Fire & Emergency Services for those duties.

The planning report includes a history of the land dating to 1863, when Capt. James Menzies acquired most of the floodplain area and built the Sandy Ranch.

In 1941, as the United States prepared for World War II, the federal government acquired the site for a plant that produced aluminum molds. Reynolds Metals Corp. began leasing the facility in 1946. The company was bought by Pittsburgh-based Alcoa in 2000. The plant last operated in 2002.

Chad Abraham
City Annexes Alcoa Property
Gresham Outlook, March 2, 2007

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