Of the Keizertimes

The land could be powerful in the future.

Last week the settlement agreement between the City of Keizer and the Rawlins family was signed for the Rawlinses properties in Keizer Station (see related story, pg. 3).

After the properties are put up for a sheriff’s sale, city leaders expect to be high bidders for the land. The Rawlinses could then purchase the land after at least 13 months, if so desired. If they purchase the land 13 to 16 months after the sheriff’s sale, it would cost them $3 million, with the cost increasing in $500,000 increments from there.

Regardless of who owns two parcels totaling approximately 16 acres, a key question looms over them: what will happen with them in the future?

“Most likely a power plant or something like that,” city manager Chris Eppley said during the March 6 special public hearing on the topic. “That would bring in a tremendous amount of tax revenue.”

While the idea of a power plant hasn’t been discussed recently, it once was a hot topic for city leaders. In February 2010, city councilors, staff and citizens visited a natural gas-fired power plant in Goldendale, Wash. operated by Puget Sound Energy. That plant is similar to the one proposed for Keizer at the time, though less powerful.

“If it were located where the developer is proposing in Keizer, the noise from I-5 would be significantly more noticeable than any noise from the plant,” a report still on the city website (http://keizer.org/?action=page&name=Front+Page+8) notes.

Mayor Lore Christopher said following the March 6 meeting a power plant makes the most sense for that particular land.

“Absolutely that’s the highest best use,” Christopher said. “The proximity of a power plant has to have a lot of factors in place. That 16 acres has those factors: water, location and infrastructure, so that could happen. The really key piece to that is the proximity to move the power and the proximity to water. We’ve got both of them there. That is the highest best use, absolutely. But that’s not to say that is the only use.”

Messages left for the Rawlinses were not returned.

Given what’s happened in the past, could the two entities work together in the future?

“Absolutely,” the mayor said. “We would be foolish not to. Remember why we’re all here: to do the best possible things for the city, to make the best public policy that we have available to us. We would be foolish not to work with anybody interested in developing those 16 acres.”

Speaking of developers, at one point Chuck Sides was working on such a project. Sides was paying rent to the Rawlinses and paying their LID assessments to the city. A failure to do the latter led to the city foreclosing on the property.

Sides said this week he doesn’t expect to be involved with the Rawlins properties in the future.

“Not right now, no,” Sides said on Monday. “It has a life of its own and it’s going down the right path. It has a very good value if it’s developed into a power plant. It has the proximity to the BPA (Bonneville Power Administration) station. That’s what makes the value of the property. The Rawlins family is working to develop that plan so it has the right permitting to do that.

We researched everything,” he added. “We needed a power purchaser agreement but could never get that. It doesn’t mean there isn’t more power coming on. They’re going about it in the right matter, getting the ground permitted and then get the agreements. It sounds like they have it in place.”

Like Christopher, Sides believes a power plant represents the best use of the land in question.

“It is the highest value,” Sides said. “It has higher property tax value than other properties in Keizer Station (with a power plant on it). It depends on how big they would build it. We were going for 400 megawatts, which is the biggest you could get on the land.”

Sides said permitting would be done through the Department of Energy, taking 18 months to two years. The land could then be sold at a much higher value.

According to Sides, one key factor worked against him pulling off such a plan.

“We tried it with everything we had,” he said. “We spent more than $3.5 million, which was for everything plus the development costs. It wasn’t the right timing to move forward. It’s always the question of timing with any development project. It would make a very good addition, in terms of high paying jobs and things that would come out of it. But we couldn’t get a purchasing agreement.”

Christopher said city leaders would be willing to listen to solid Keizer Station development plans.

“We’re not going to turn down any viable business options,” she said. “We’re going to give them intense scrutiny and then make a decision based on what’s the best solution for the community. That’s the bottom line.”