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By Jess Macinko
News Editor 

City weighs fate of former care center building

 

Jess Macinko

NEW LIFE?: The old Mount Adams Care Center building at 216 Simcoe Drive. The building has been city property since 2012.

Though a formal decision won't be made until next week, the mood at Monday night's city council workshop was all but unanimous: helping veterans is good, but Goodnoe Station represents a greater economic opportunity for Goldendale.

The workshop convened after the regular council meeting to discuss proposals for the purchase and development of the former site of the Mount Adams Care Center. Two proposals-one from the Veterans Recreation and Rehabilitation Center, one from Goodnoe Station Development, LLC-were presented at a special meeting of the council Tuesday, Feb. 28. The March 6 workshop was held to allow further assessment of the proposals, which will then be decided upon at another special council meeting on Tuesday, March 14 at 7 p.m.

The property, located at 216 Simcoe Drive, was acquired by the city in 2012. The building has a number of issues, most notably the presence of asbestos that would take an estimated $200,000-$250,000 to abate. A request for proposals issued in January states the city's desire "to dispose of the property to an entity capable of [developing the site in a way] that will provide the most economic benefit to the community." That anticipated benefit is listed as 45 percent of the valuation criteria, the single largest consideration.

The Veterans Recreation and Rehabilitation Center, a non-profit dedicated to veterans support services, proposes to renovate the building to house veterans in career training programs, specifically culinary and Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification. The Center estimates they would employ at least 12 local subcontractors in the renovation and 28 personnel for facility operations. Additionally, they envision the program will foster local veteran-run businesses, which would create additional job opportunities for the community.

Goodnoe Station Development, a local development firm whose members are responsible for the 2012 Maryhill Museum expansion, proposes SOGO: a mixed-use project in southern Goldendale. The two-phase project would provide housing for approximately 200 employees at an anticipated vineyard in the Goodnoe Hills area east of Goldendale. GSD cites the advantage of housing employees in an established city as opposed to the sparsely populated vineyard site; conversely, they expect the influx of 200 employees and their families will add to Goldendale's tax base and otherwise benefit the local economy.

Wine and taxes

Mayor Michael Canon stressed that SOGO represents a unique opportunity to bring the wine industry closer to Goldendale. "SOGO means not just workers moving to town, but vineyards," he said, and with the vineyards secondary industries like tourism and food production. According to the Washington State Office of Financial Management, the total economic impact of wine and related activities grew from $3.5 billion in 2009 to $4.8 billion in 2013.

Council member Carmen Knopes expressed confidence in the proposed Goodnoe Hills vineyard, citing a 50-year water supply agreement between KPUD and Goodnoe Station for the project. She also referred to estimates highlighting the difference in revenue to the city. Combining property taxes, building permits, and annual water and sewer fees, SOGO would contribute approximately $94,800; the Center, $13,500.

"There's a huge difference," Knopes said. "We need this kind of development to come here." Knopes spoke of the positive impact 200 additional families would have on the Goldendale school system. Conversely, she expressed concern that though the Center anticipates the creation of roughly 20 jobs, "they really don't have a way to guarantee a wage for those people."

Shannon Middleton remarked on the difference in proposals' funding sources. "One was riding on true money," he said. "One was riding on grants."

Asbestos concerns

While the building's asbestos presents a challenge to any potential development, council members expressed concern over the Veterans Center's plan to encase (seal-off) rather than abate (remove) the carcinogenic substance. Center spokesmen believe encasement to be an effective and less expensive solution.

However, council members were doubtful the process goes far enough in mitigating health concerns. Canon anticipated reluctance from the VA to put vets in a building with asbestos, encased or not. Lucille Bevis was skeptical that the asbestos could be encased well enough to completely eliminate exposure.

As part of a proposed six-month due diligence period, Goodnoe Station would decide whether to abate and renovate the existing building, or scrap it and start from scratch.

Too much too soon?

The lone voice of dissent came from Terry Luth during the public comment period of the regular meeting. Luth expressed concern over housing 200 people on the 4.5 acre parcel, as well as general skepticism toward a project of that size. "Our track record is that we keep failing on the big jobs," Luth said.

Though in favor of the project overall, Knopes also voiced a need for consideration in moving forward. "We need to make sure the fire department can handle the growth," she said. Other council members pointed to Goodnoe Station's phased development plan, due diligence schedule and reversion clause-which would return the property to city ownership if the project proved unfeasible-as elements of a careful, well-thought-out approach. Public Works Director Karl Enyeart assuaged previous concerns about the capacity of water and sewer lines to service the development.

Other vet options

As much as the council seemed to be of the same mind on the strength of the Goodnoe Station proposal, they also expressed a desire to see both projects succeed. "We're not turning down [the Veterans Center," Canon said. Multiple council members suggested other parcels of city property that might better suit the Center's long-term plans, including an animal husbandry program that the Mount Adams property isn't zoned for.

Canon also reiterated that the council will not make any decisions on the proposals before receiving public input at the March 14 meeting.

 

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