The Dalles — The City of The Dalles has sufficient “employment buildable lands” to meet state growth requirements despite those lands being owned in large parcels by Google and Walmart and not readily available for use, according to an inventory presented to the council Jan. 25.
“Although there is a fairly small surplus of land for commercial and industrial use, we did show a surplus of employment land,” said Matt Hastie, he presented the inventory to the council. That surplus will not support expansion of the city’s Urban Growth Boundary (UGB), despite the fact the majority of the industrial land is already spoken for by large landowners like Google and the Walmart site at the west end of town. “You do have a limited supply of available or marketable land for other users within the city,” Hastie said, but the apparent surplus will not help the city show a need for boundary expansion, he explained. “In the aggregate, the city has enough land within its Urban Growth Boundary to accommodate projected 20-year employment needs.”
The city had hoped incorporating the inventory in the city’s comprehensive plan would support future growth of the boundary, but “the analysis likely will not provide the factual basis to support an expansion of the city’s UGB to accommodate long-term overall employment needs. It may be possible for the city to make the case for a future UGB expansion to accommodate a specific use if the city can document that there are no existing sites in the UGB that have the characteristics to support such a use,” the analysis report stated.
The inventory included extensive review and refinements based on coordination and review by city staff, the Stakeholder Advisory Committee and representatives of the Port of The Dalles, Wasco County, Google and the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development.
The existence of land identified as buildable under Oregon statues does not take into account whether that land is currently available for sale, lease or development, Hastie noted. “For example, all of the larger sites in the inventory (over 12 acres) are owned by Google or a subsidiary. As a result, they are not anticipated to be available to other users, but they are included in the city’s 20-year supply,” the report states. The inventory found that 127 acres of the 175 acres of buildable industrial land are owned and planned for future development by Google. “Just under 50 acres of land in the inventory are available for other uses.”
The report was reviewed by the city’s planning commission, which recommended adopting the inventory so the data would be available for use, even if it didn’t help the city in its effort to expand the UGB, but city planning staff recommended the city table the inventory for a “couple of years.”
“The best course might be to place this on hold for a couple of years, then dust off the numbers and bring it back,” said Senior Planner Dawn Hertz. “The urgency of adopting it would be to adjust the UGB, and this report doesn’t do that. Our results might be different in a year, in two years.” Hertz noted that once adopted, the next step would be to incorporate it into the city’s comprehensive plan, which will be a time-consuming process. “It would be a lot of work to add it to the comprehensive plan,” she said.
Councilor Darcy Long-Curtiss said she didn’t see the benefit in delaying acceptance. “This is where we are as a city,” she said. “I think we should adopt the inventory, but not integrate into the comprehensive plan. I think our city needs to move forward.”
Councilor Richardson expressed a similar view. “I don’t see why we wouldn’t adopt it, in some form. Even if not as part of the comprehensive plan. It’s a reality that we have sold about 70 percent of our buildable industrial land to Google ...” he said. “It makes good sense not to launch on the work of adding it to the comprehensive plan.”
Hertz said adoption, without full incorporation into the comprehensive plan was a viable option. “We could adopt, and check for some incorporation into the comprehensive plan, but not do a complete revision at this time.”
She explained that if the city were to pursue expanding the UGB, to meet future long term needs for employment lands, this analysis has to be done. She added that there are additional steps to expand the boundary as well, even if the city did had a deficit, before the UGB could be adjusted. “You would have to update the findings of the report, if say Google developed their acreage. It wouldn’t take as much time or effort, since you have the basic data, but you would have to update the numbers.”
After discussion, the council reached a consensus to bring the plan back before the council to consider the question of adoption more fully. Hertz agreed, and added she could at that time “report on any activity ... that might change the results” of the inventory.
In other business, Long-Curtiss reported all new shelters for the houseless are up and in use in The Dalles, with 18 units in use. She said six units are single occupancy units due to the mental health needs of the residents. Long-Curtiss added that annual homeless counts will only count those staying in shelters this year, instead of canvassing the community for those living in tents and elsewhere in the community.