VALE – The Malheur County Court has signed a deal with a Portland land engineering company to evaluate development options for a chunk of land next to the Treasure Valley Reload Center north of Nyssa.
The court on Nov. 9 approved a $10,000 contract with Mackenzie, to study opportunities for the undeveloped Arcadia Industrial Park.
“We want to get where we can start marketing the property,” said Don Hodge, Malheur County commissioner.
The county bought 290 acres in 2019 north of Nyssa for the industrial park and since then local taxpayers have funded payments on the loan used for $3 million acquisition.
About 65 acres was sold to Malheur County Development Corp. for the reload facility while another five acres was ceded to the Farmer family – the previous owners of the land – and 80 acres remains off limits to development because it is zoned for farming.
That leaves about 140 acres for development, which the Farmers continued to farm since the sale.
Under the agreement, Mackenzie will organize several virtual meetings with county officials to discuss the site.
The company will also deliver a five- to seven-page memo to county leaders that summarizes its findings. The creation of a market study and a preliminary site plan will also be part of the first phase contract.
“We are going to talk about is what lot sizes should be, or should we wait for sewer to come in before we market it? What kind of utilities and should it just be for people who actually utilize the rail? Should we sell it?” said Stephanie Williams, county counsel.
She said the goal is to “help us with a vision and a direction.”
The initial $10,000 outlay is the first phase of a multi-tiered plan to develop the property.
The county is also contemplating applying to the state for industrial certification for the property. The site is then advertised by Business Oregon, the state’s economic development agency, in the global real estate market.
The Arcadia Industrial Park is another component to the larger Treasure Valley Reload Center narrative. The industrial park was seen by officials as a key development arm of the rail reload project, which is now years behind schedule and plagued with funding problems.
Development of the industrial park was a key responsibility of Greg Smith in his time as the county’ economic development director. Smith, who is also a state representative from Heppner, was paid by the county to create a viable future plan for the industrial park. Securing that future meant obtaining $15 million through a U.S. Transportation Department grant.
Yet in 2020 Smith and his team botched the application, providing virtually none of the information required to determine whether the county qualified for the federal cash.
The agency deemed the proposal submitted by Smith to be “unacceptable.” That meant after investing two years and thousands of taxpayer dollars the county lost out on the grant.
Smith did spend money for two signs at the site promoting the park. He also published a listing on the state’s database of industrial property, indicating the Arcadia property was available for sale or lease.
The property is no longer listed on the state website.
Smith resigned from his position as county economic development director in June.
News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected].
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