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City Council approves resolution to study mixed uses of West Hayden Island; decision on development of island postponed until 2011

On July 29, 2010, the Portland City Council authorized Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) staff to take the next step in planning for mixed uses on West Hayden Island (WHI). In front of an overflow crowd, Council approved 4-0 (Leonard absent) Mayor Adams' resolution recommending the City continue planning for future use of WHI, including no more than 300 acres for marine terminal development and no less than 500 acres of protected environmental habitat. WHI is owned by the Port of Portland and encompasses approximately 800+ acres.
  
Following a brief staff presentation, Council heard a report from the WHI Working Group (CWG) presented by Chair Anne Squire. The CWG was convened in 2009 by Mayor Adams to consider WHI's future. Specifically, their charge was to “advise City Council on how marine industrial, habitat and recreational uses might be reconciled on WHI; and, if the CWG determines that a mix of uses is possible on WHI, to recommend a preferred concept plan.” To assist the CWG, BPS worked with a consultant, ENTRIX, to prepare several technical “Foundation Studies” exploring the relevant economic and ecological facts. The working group -- comprising representatives from the working waterfront, environmentalists, residents and others -- could not come to an agreement on the future use of the island.
 
While the CWG remained divided on the question posed to them, the principles and points of agreement they outlined in their report could be a starting point for further productive discussion about the future of WHI. 
 
"I believe there's real potential and demonstrated need for both world-class habitat and a Port facility on West Hayden Island," said Mayor Adams. "But I know much work -- and more due diligence -- remains to be done."
 
In order to give some structure to the Council’s discussion, Mayor Adams submitted a resolution to the CWG on July 20, 2010.  The resolution was further refined by other Council members during the hearing and focuses on the following parameters:


• At least 500 acres of the site should be designated as permanent open space and managed as a natural area for the benefit of the regional ecosystem. Any land management option must include financing models for the restoration and long term care of the natural area. 
• No more than 300 acres should be designated for future marine terminal development, including all related development such as rail and access roads. The marine terminal footprint should be located, to the extent feasible, over the existing dredge disposal site footprint.
• Any proposal should consider the costs of financing the infrastructure against the public benefit of the improvements.
• Any docks should be designed to avoid shallow water impacts and will not include a vertical sea wall or similar structure.  The proposal must include information on environmental regulatory requirements and how they may be met.
• Nature-based recreational uses should be evaluated in more detail, particularly if recreational improvements can be used as a means to direct and manage human access in ways that support habitat objectives.
• Traffic impacts should be examined in light of the most up-to-date Columbia River Crossing design options. The plan should minimize any adverse impacts on East Hayden Island residents as well as consider air quality impacts (dust and emissions), noise and light impacts on this adjacent community.

The resolution directs BPS staff to prepare a Comprehensive Plan update and zoning proposals consistent with the above-listed parameters. They would also develop a legislative proposal for annexation of WHI into the City, but the decision on whether to proceed with annexation and possible development will not go before the City Council until mid-to-late 2011.
 
City Council members called for further due diligence and analysis on several basic assumptions and issues, including the need for port facilities in this location, operational efficiencies that might allow more compact marine terminal facilities, and an evaluation of opportunities for increased coordination with the Port of Vancouver.
 
Citing how important it is for Portland to "get this right," Council members stated that the next phase must be done in accordance with their expectations and must answer the questions above. The Mayor proposed holding Council work sessions during the next phase of the planning process so Council can track the issue closely.
 
City Council has already received considerable written testimony on this issue, and more than 90 people signed up to testify at the July 29 hearing. Commissioner Nick Fish remarked that in the time he has been on the Council, he had never heard such insightful testimony, the quality of which helped commissioners come to agreement.

Resolving this long-standing question is important in order to provide certainty to the Port and the region and inform the City's state-mandated Comprehensive Plan update, occurring through the Portland Plan. Under Oregon land use law, city and regional planners are responsible for monitoring the supply of development-ready land, and ensuring enough supply exists to satisfy the expected needs over the next 20 years. This is necessary because land supply is regulated by the Urban Growth Boundary. WHI was brought into the Metro Urban Growth Boundary in 1983 to “satisfy a long term regional need for water-dependent, marine terminal and industrial facilities.” Industrial development is generally not permitted outside of the region’s urban growth boundary. In addition, industry is not permitted unless land is zoned for that use.
 
The process of annexation, adopting zoning, developing specific plans and obtaining development permits is expected to take 5 to 10 years. If Portland intends to make any portion of WHI available for development over the next 20 years, this planning process needs to begin now.
 
The next steps for the West Hayden Island planning process include:
• Developing a new work plan to match the resolution
• Working with the Mayor to evaluate the CWG process and propose a new public involvement plan for the next phase of work
• Discussing funding needs with the Port of Portland, leading to possible changes to the IGA by September

Target dates are:
• Complete the above by mid September 2010
• Complete additional technical studies by Spring 2011
• Bring an annexation agreement and zoning proposal to Council by December 2011