Port rezoning request causes concern for refuge

Issue will go before the County Planning Commission in the spring

The secretary of the Columbia Gorge Refuge Stewards is hoping the Port of Camas-Washougal will modify its rezoning request regarding some of the land in the Steigerwald Commerce Center.

In a letter to Port Executive Director David Ripp, Willemina Niosi said the 19.65 acres in the request currently serve as a buffer between the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge and the port’s heavy industrial zoned land located to the west.

The port is requesting that Clark County rezone the southern parcel of the commerce center from parks/open space to heavy industrial.

Niosi, of Camas, said heavy industry, with its “typical noise and other environmental impacts,” would not be compatible with the adjoining refuge lands.

“The refuge’s Redtail Lake, a sizeable water body located directly across the fence from the port’s 19.65 acres, is heavily utilized by migrating waterfowl,” she said.

Niosi said a wide variety of birds and mammals — some rare or threatened — have been recorded there and on the land involved in the rezoning request.

“Tall hardwoods with their understory vegetation along the Corp’s adjacent Columbia River dike remain heavily used by bald eagles, hawks, owls and smaller birds, despite some unnecessary and careless vegetation removal there recently,” she said. “Due to these high natural resource values at and near the proposed rezone site, it would be advisable to develop an environmental impact statement.”

Niosi suggested zones such as general commercial, business park or light industrial could provide the same or better local benefits and have less of an impact on wildlife. Ideally, she would prefer no zone change.

Permitted uses on land zoned heavy industrial include agricultural product manufacturing and processing, automotive services, branch banks, cellular telecommunication towers, cement manufacturing and ceramic production facilities and cold storage, frozen food facilities and ice manufacturing. Other permitted uses include dry cleaning plants, pest control businesses, fiberglass insulation manufacturing, heavy equipment sales, service, rental, storage and repair, incinerators, kennels, mobile home sales, machine shops, RV and boat storage, professional offices, research and scientific laboratories, restaurants less than 3,000 square feet and wineries, breweries and distilleries.

The rezoning issue will be reviewed by the Clark County Planning Commission this spring, and the county commissioners will hold a public hearing this fall.

Building 15 to be completed in the spring

Meanwhile, construction of Building 15 continues in the commerce center.

Team Construction, LLC, of Vancouver, is working on the $2.167 million project.

The port received $499,000 from the Washington State Community Economic Revitalization Board, to help pay for construction of the 21,600 square foot building.

Foods in Season plans to move from its current headquarters to Building 15 on the new Lincoln Street this year.

The port purchased the 13,620 square-foot headquarters building and 1.07 acres of land at 3805 S. Truman St., for $1.15 million. It is leasing the property back to Foods in Season for $6,129 per month, plus leasehold tax of $786, until Building 15 is ready for occupancy.

Ripp said a company has signed a letter of intent to lease the building at 3805 S. Truman St.

“I am hoping to bring it to the [port] commission for approval at the Feb. 18 meeting,” he said Monday.

The first phase of the Steigerwald Commerce Center project makes 30 to 40 acres of heavy industrial property available. When completed, it will include more than 122 acres. The port property is available to lease or purchase.

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