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St. Helens to buy riverfront property

Boise Cascade, city enter into purchase and sale agreement


by: SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO - The Boise Cascade Co. property where the company used to operate a veneer plant just south of Old Town St. Helens. The city and the company have entered into an agreement under which the land will be sold to St. Helens for eventual development.St. Helens agreed to purchase the Boise Cascade Co. veneer plant property last Wednesday, Feb. 5, for an undisclosed amount, according to City Administrator John Walsh.

Walsh told the Spotlight Wednesday, Feb. 12, a week after he said the purchase and sale agreement between St. Helens and Boise Cascade was signed, that both parties reached a deal that brings the city’s long-held dream of controlling the parcel of waterfront property closer to reality.

The signing of the agreement does not mean the property’s purchase is final, but signifies Boise Cascade’s intent to sell the land to St. Helens and the city’s intent to buy it for the proffered price.

Walsh said St. Helens and Boise Cascade have agreed to keep the specific terms of the agreement “in confidence.” But he suggested the agreed-upon price is less than what the company believes is fair market value for the property.

“Really, the driver behind that is that Boise thinks that they’re giving us a better deal than they would on the open market,” Walsh said of the secrecy surrounding the sale price.

The city will hold an all-day workshop next Tuesday, Feb. 18, that will serve as “kind of the kickoff of a visioning project for the waterfront,” Walsh said.

Walsh said the city’s goals are to establish a transportation network on the veneer plant property, as it is commonly referred to, as well as “encourage private investment,” while retaining some “public open spaces,” such as parks, trails and boardwalks.

“It’s a big enough piece that there’s room,” Walsh remarked.

The property is assessed at about 17 acres, although Walsh suggested the total acreage may be slightly higher. It is currently zoned for industrial use, but an overlay zone allows for residential and commercial development as well.

City Councilor Keith Locke has been a longtime advocate of purchasing the Boise Cascade property. He said Wednesday he has pushed for development of the land since joining the St. Helens City Council in 2001*.

“I think it’s probably one of the best things that’s happened to the city for a long time,” Locke said of the purchase and sale agreement Wednesday.

While he said he wants to see mixed-use development on the land, as well as waterfront access for the public, Locke said there will have to be a lengthy public process to determine what to do with the property. He also noted the acquisition is not yet a done deal, saying, “There’s still a lot of scenarios where both parties can back out.”

“Purchasing [the property] isn’t really that big of a deal,” Locke concluded. “It’s what you do with it.”

Boise Cascade closed the veneer plant in 2008, laying off 36 workers in the process. Equipment and buildings from the operation have since been removed from the site.

* A previous version of this article stated Locke became a city councilor in 2000. He was elected in November 2000, but was not sworn in until Jan. 3, 2001.