Six weeks ago, the Vancouver City Council enacted an emergency six-month moratorium on new industrial development within a 16-block light industrial district downtown. Now the public will be able to weigh in on the decision during tonight’s City Council meeting, beginning at 7 p.m. at City Hall.
The moratorium was part of an effort by the City Council to prevent construction of a biomass plant in downtown Vancouver. The biomass plant was being developed through a partnership between Clark County and Seattle-based Schneider Electric. The conflict started in August when the city denied Schneider Electric’s application to build the plant on the corner of West 11th and Harney. Schneider appealed its case before Vancouver’s hearing examiner, Sharon Rice
On Oct. 10, the City Council declared the emergency moratorium. Two days later, Rice ruled in favor of Schneider, saying that the biomass plant was similar to other uses permitted within the city’s light industrial overlay district. A month later, Schneider Electric abruptly scrapped the project.
In a Nov. 18 letter to Clark County Administrator Bill Barron, Scheider Electric cited “numerous setbacks, roadblocks and other obstructions related to the development of the project” and poor marketing conditions for selling the electrical power that plant would have generated.
Even with the biomass fight over, the City Council must still hear public testimony, which is required within 60 days of such a decision.
The council adopted the Vancouver City Center Plan (VCCP) in 2007 to phase out industrial uses in the downtown core and transform it into an urban neighborhood characterized by mixed office and residential uses.
However, according to Vancouver City Manager Eric Holmes, the county’s effort to build the biomass plant revealed a “glitch” between the policy established in the VCCP and the land use codes in the light industrial district downtown.
“The legislative intent of the plan was not translated into the regulatory elements of the code,” Holmes told the City Council at its Oct. 10 meeting. “As a result, we have some inconsistency between what we are trying to achieve in the plan and what the code actually says.”
According to a recent city staff report, streets within the light industrial overlay district (LI) don’t accommodate the turning capacity or loading/unloading needs of large trucks. “The area is designed and more appropriately used for city center office, commercial, and residential uses,” the report says.
City staff is recommending that the council extend the moratorium for a full year to allow it more time to analyze and propose potential changes to the current land use codes, and to ensure that the public has appropriate opportunity to comment.
“We are looking to extend it into October 2012 so we have a full year to make the changes that are needed to the development code,” said Vancouver Planning Review Manager Chad Eiken. “Property owners have been notified. Surrounding property owners within 500 feet have also been notified. The public is invited to come to testify either in favor or in opposition to extending this moratorium.”
The Dec. 5 meeting begins at 7 p.m. at Vancouver City Hall located at 415 West 6th Street (2nd Floor). The city council’s full agenda for Dec. 5 is available online for review.
Vancouver City Council Meetings
415 W. 6th St. (2nd Floor)