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Hayden Island plan stirs neighbors' ire

By Steve Law
The Portland Tribune

Elaine Pettingell enjoys the sunshine in her Hayden Island yard, in view of the west side of the island where the Port of Portland hopes to develop marine terminals. Hayden Island residents are fighting the port's plan because of feared traffic congestion, noise, pollution and loss of open space on the island.

Hayden Island plan stirs neighbors' ire

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT

Elaine Pettingell enjoys the sunshine in her Hayden Island yard, in view of the west side of the island where the Port of Portland hopes to develop marine terminals. Hayden Island residents are fighting the port's plan because of feared traffic congestion, noise, pollution and loss of open space on the island.

The gloves are off in the fight over development of west Hayden Island.

Neighborhood leaders and environmentalists had been making nice with city planners and the Port of Portland for nearly two years, ever since Mayor Sam Adams proposed his compromise - allowing the port to develop marine trade terminals if it preserves the bulk of the island's wildlife habitat.

But relations between the two camps broke down in mid-June after the city released a tentative development deal with the port. Residents and environmentalists accused the city of caving to the port's demands and giving short shrift to environmental, traffic, noise, nighttime lighting and health concerns.

In response, city planners and the port now say they're open to some changes in the agreement and related planning and zoning amendments. And it's worth noting that the port, which purchased most of the 831-acre site in the mid-1990s to develop marine terminals, is willing to concede Adams' central demand - that it limit industrial development to 300 of its acres while preserving more than 500 acres.

But the dust-up appears to have hardened opposition by the Audubon Society of Portland and a widening circle of neighborhood groups, complicating Adams' effort to broker his "win-win" deal before leaving office in January.

"There is a growing pushback by the community that is not just Hayden Island neighbors but North Portland neighbors," says Ron Schmidt, chairman of the Hayden Island Neighborhood Network.

In May, Schmidt notes, neighborhood association leaders in North Portland took a united position opposing all industrial development of the island, home to 2,800 residents on the east side.

Bob Sallinger, the Audubon conservation director who has led a long and determined fight against developing the west side of the island, quit the city's advisory committee in late June, calling the process a "sham" and accusing city planners of being the port's "lapdog."

Areas of concern

Here's a look at five bones of contention as the deal gets finalized before going before the city Planning and Sustainability Commission and then the Portland City Council:

- Permanent protection of open space: The draft intergovernmental agreement between the city and port specifies that the port won't seek a zone change for the undeveloped open space during the 25-year life of the deal. That leaves the door open for the port to develop marine terminals on the first 300 acres and then seek a zone change to develop remaining space later.

That was never intended and will be clarified, according to city planners and the port.

"We would never ask for a rezone, nor would we support that on our property," says Susie Lahsene, the port's transportation and land-use policy manager.

"We're going to make it clear that the habitat land is protected in perpetuity," says Joe Zehnder, the city's chief planner.

- How natural areas are improved and protected: The deal essentially leaves it up to the port when and how it will improve the natural areas on west Hayden Island, and how it will improve alternate parcels to make up for lost wetlands, forests and grasslands where it develops marine terminals.

The port ultimately will improve the natural areas and agree to some sort of conservation easement to protect them in perpetuity, Lahsene says. However, it wants the flexibility to, for example, make up for the lost forest on Hayden Island by planting new trees upstream on the Columbia River, on the port-owned Government Island.

The port, one of many parties on the hook to clean up the polluted Portland Harbor Superfund site on the Willamette River, also hopes to get credits for that effort by making improvements to Hayden Island.

Hayden Island is as "an asset for us to be able to improve over time," Lahsene says.

The port also agreed to supply $1 million for trails or other public recreation improvements on the island.

The city sought more specific terms for how the port will improve or replace the lost habitat, but couldn't get the port to agree.

Sallinger calls that a "trust us" arrangement, rather than a binding commitment to assure there's no net loss of habitat.

He obtained the original and subsequent drafts of the intergovernmental agreement between the port and the city through a public records request, and says they show the city making a string of concessions. City planners originally wanted the port to reimburse the city for its investments in public infrastructure if the promised 3,000 jobs don't materialize. "That section was removed," Sallinger says.

- Easing traffic: The city-port agreement calls for improving Hayden Island Drive to handle the influx of trucks and other traffic to and from the marine terminals. That would nix a new bridge from Marine Drive that residents prefer, because if would keep most of the traffic off the populated east side of the island.

The maximum projected traffic is 516 trucks a day and about 1,500 cars, says Eric Engstrom, the city's principal planner. That's the same traffic expected for a Walgreens, Lahsene says.

The city and port argue that's not enough to justify a $100 million bridge, especially compared to the $20 million price tag for improving Hayden Island Drive.

Eliminating the bridge would be a "stake in the heart of our community," Schmidt says.

A four-lane bridge has been estimated to cost $50 million to $100 million, and a cheaper two-lane bridge would suffice, says Victor Viets, a retired civil engineer who lives on the island.

Improvements to Hayden Island Drive would cost $22 million, Viets says, so the price gap is not as great as the port and city maintain.

- Noise, lights: The port has long promised that it will address neighbor concerns about noise and nighttime lights from its marine terminals, but the deal provides few specifics.

"We want to make sure that we're not hamstrung in the future," Lahsene explains.

But city planners concur with neighbors that the port's written assurances are too vague. Those are "pretty much a joke," Viets says.

- Health impacts: Neighbors also demanded that a health impact analysis be conducted before the city agrees to annex the land and rezone it. The health study would measure diesel fumes and other impacts from trucks, trains and ships idling on the Columbia.

The original city-port deal obligated the port to pay for a $50,000 study, but that was stripped from the agreement, Sallinger says.

However, some members of the Planning and Sustainability Commission insisted they have such details before they approve the deal.

In response, the city and port promise a two-part analysis: what Lahsene called a "baseline" report, and a promise to do a detailed health impact analysis later, once a specific development is proposed.

Viets says there shouldn't be a problem assessing the health impacts of the expected terminals, because the port has suggested it might build facilities to handle vehicles, grain or minerals.

Advisory committee to meet

Next up for the Hayden Island proposal is a July 20 meeting of the Hayden Island Advisory Committee.

After that, planners hope to take the package to the Planning and Sustainability Commission in August and September, and then to the City Council in October.

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