A lengthy and complex process to annex West Hayden Island for a future marine terminal, habitat preservation and recreational amenities came to an end on the morning of January 8, when the Port briefed its Commission and informed Portland Mayor Charlie Hales that it would formally withdraw its consent to annex the property into the City of Portland.
“The terms under which annexation has been proposed by the City would simply render a future development on the property impossible,” said Bill Wyatt, executive director for the Port of Portland. “We understand from the Mayor that Portland City Council is unwilling to take action to modify these proposals at this time, so we cannot justify the investment of more time and money into the process.”
The Port owns more than 800 acres of property on the island that is currently part of unincorporated Multnomah County and lacks the appropriate zoning and City services needed for marine terminal development. Starting in 2009, the Port began a process at the request of then City Commissioner Sam Adams to pursue annexation. A proposal emerged through a series of studies, meetings and hearings that would have preserved 500 acres as open space and 300 acres for future marine industrial development.
While the City’s Planning and Sustainability Commission recommended annexing the property in July 2013, the recommendation included new forms of mitigation not required of any other developer and at a level not required for any other project and beyond actual impacts. With an estimated $30 – $40 million in added costs, this would have priced the developable land at double the cost of industrial land in the region, while still lacking appropriate zoning to ensure that future development could actually occur. Without willingness by the City to amend these terms, annexation proved impractical for the Port to proceed.
“This is a disappointing and unfortunate outcome on several levels including lost economic opportunity for our region, implications for current and future land use planning, and lost social and environmental benefits,” said Wyatt. “Despite this action, I believe that West Hayden Island remains viable for the future as an ideal place to grow the city’s tax base and family jobs while providing space for public recreation and wildlife habitat.”
The Port is currently reassessing short and long term future plans for West Hayden Island, and does not count out future annexation and development prospects. With an industrial land shortage of more than 600 acres, Portland will face challenges in meeting goals and requirements of regional land use planning processes. More importantly, it may not be able to attract the kinds of jobs and private investment that West Hayden Island and its 300 developable acres could accommodate. Nearly $1 billion of maritime investment has been made on the Columbia in recent years.