“Port of Newport postpones decision on log storage permit,” from information provided by public information specialist Angela Nebel.
At their regular meeting on Tuesday, commissioners from the Port of Newport voted to postpone a decision on the future of a building permit that dates back to 2015 on a log storage project that still languishes on the drawing board.
In December of 2015, the Port obtained a permit from the City of Newport for the development of a log yard next to the International Terminal. In a letter from August of this year, City Building Official Joseph Lease urged the Port to define its plans for the site.
The building official said the city is requesting that the Port of Newport review the current feasibility of the project and determine if it is the port’s intent to proceed with this particular development and, if so, provide a timeline for construction along with a request that the construction permit be extended before it expires.
General Manager Paula Miranda outlined the efforts made and costs incurred in recent years to keep the permit open, but also said the pathway to transforming it into a viable project is “a narrow one.”
In a report to commissioners, the manager noted that “if we keep the permit open, the only project the permit will cover is another log yard and nothing else.”
Community Development Director Derrick Tokos explained that the building permit was for a specific project and the specific improvements that goes with it.
Tokos said “The issue is, under the state’s structural codes, once we issue a building permit the port is obligated to make progress on that specific project or the permit will expire.”
Regardless of whether the permit is extended or allowed to expire, Port Manager Paula Miranda emphasized that she has been actively seeking new business opportunities for the International Terminal and that the Port of Newport is always open to new ideas – both for established businesses as well as for new ones.
Miranda explained further, “We have been trying hard to formulate ways to use that site… to find some sort of partnership to use all the property around the terminal for the benefit of everyone.” she explained.
However, keeping the permit open is an expense for the Port, using dollars that Miranda said could be more effectively applied to an as-yet unspecified project.
“Instead of spending money with a permit to build a specific type of business that isn’t coming to fruition anytime soon, we could spend the money getting that site ready for something else,” Miranda said.
Since activating the permit over four years ago, the Port has been required to pay system development charges (SDCs) to the city. Those fees will be refunded if the specifically permitted project does not move forward. The Port has invested roughly $172,000 to-date on the project, of which $76,000 was spent on SDCs and permit charges.
Commission President Sara Skamser noted that growing and expanding wetlands on the acreage may become a problem and suggested that the money might be better spent improving the site for whatever use(s) align with the port’s goals.
“I think we would gain a lot from using the money refunded back to us and invest it into the property to make it more shovel ready, or at least start to get control of the wetlands that will otherwise just naturally expand,” she said.
Ultimately, the commissioners decided to table the decision for one month.
After the meeting, Miranda summarized why the decision is such a difficult one:
“It is not an easy choice. We could terminate our current permit but later see an opportunity again rise up for the very same use. We would therefore have to go back through the same expensive permitting process with the city all over again. Or, on the flip side, we could continue spending money on the current permit but then suddenly be presented with a totally different use that would require us to go back through the same expensive permitting process.” she explained.
Again, the Port Commission postponed the issue for another month.