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By Jess Macinko
News Editor 

Fate of building still contested, delayed

 

March 22, 2017

Jess Macinko

Veterans Recreation and Rehabilitation Center Executive Director Thomas Lancaster, front, and founder Charles Rennaker, rear, present their proposal Feb. 28.

Last Tuesday's city council meeting on proposals for the former Mount Adams Care Center reached the same conclusion as previous meetings: more information is needed before the city decides. The council expects to have answers to public inquiries on the subject by Thursday, March 23, and is scheduled to make a formal decision at a special meeting Monday, March 27.

The two proposals in question come from the Veterans Recreation and Rehabilitation Center, a non-profit dedicated to veterans' support services, and Goodnoe Station Development, a local development firm whose members are responsible for the 2012 Maryhill Museum expansion, among other projects. More information on the organizations can be found at their respective websites: goldendalevets. org and goodnoestation. com.

Despite endorsements from current and former county Economic Development directors, Goodnoe Station's proposal faced mounting public support for the Veterans Center at Tuesday's meeting, which had been intended to decide the matter. The council has repeatedly acknowledged the merits of both proposals and expressed a desire to support both. Finding other city property better suited to the Veterans project has been a recurring suggestion.

Growth potential, growing pains

Pending the favorable outcome of a six-month due diligence period, Goodnoe Station proposes a mixed-use project (SOGO) combining commercial office space, market-rate apartments and housing for an estimated 200 – 250 full-time employees at an anticipated vineyard in the Goodnoe Hills.

The vineyard project met with enthusiasm from Klickitat County Economic Development Director Dave McClure, who noted his department's current strategic plan focuses on the county's booming wine industry. Public Utility Director Jim Smith expressed confidence in the project, awarding it a 50-year water right agreement. Throughout the proposal process, Mayor Mike Canon and Goldendale Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dana Peck-both former Economic Development directors-have repeatedly stated that SOGO represents a rare opportunity for Goldendale's economic growth.

At Tuesday's meeting, council member Guy Theriault raised questions about the comparative costs of the projects. Previous gross estimates highlighted a disparity in contributions to the city tax-base: SOGO would bring in approximately $94,800 its first year; the Veterans Center, $13,500. However, Theriault noted those estimates didn't consider the demands an additional 200 – 250 people would make on city resources. He warned that SOGO couldn't be fully vetted until the council had estimated those costs.

While not dismissive of those costs, other council members referred to them as "growing pains" that would inevitably accompany any economic expansion. They cited SOGO's two-phase plan as reassurance that growth would be gradual, and noted Goldendale handled higher populations in the heydays of the aluminum plant and timber mill.

Look before you leap

An ongoing concern has been the Veterans Center's ability to fund its proposal to completion. CEO Thomas Lancaster remarked at the initial presentation on Feb. 28 that the organization's previous facility in Spanaway, Washington, was forced to close when the landlord raised the rent.

Once the Center owns its own building, Lancaster believes more funding in the form of program grants would be available. He also mentioned the Center has several affiliates committed to donating bulk quantities of building supplies. At the March 14 meeting, Lancaster pointed out that the Request for Proposals didn't ask applicants to identify funding sources. He assured the audience that he could have done so, given more time.

"The long answer is, I don't have all the numbers, because that wasn't what we were asked to produce," Lancaster said. "The short answer is, we have a good plan."

The property, located at 216 Simcoe Drive, was given to the city in 2012. The building has multiple problems-including water damage, black mold, and plumbing issues-whose full extent is unknown. It also contains asbestos that would take an estimated $200,000 – $250,000 to abate. The Veterans Center plans to encase (seal-off) rather than abate (remove) the carcinogenic substance, which they believe would be an effective and less expensive solution. In response to council concerns about housing veterans in a building with any asbestos, encased or not, Lancaster cited a Port Orchard veteran's facility that used the method.

At the initial presentation meeting, Goodnoe Station president and local architect Gene Callan applauded the Veterans Center's efforts while stressing the need for a cautious approach from whoever takes on the dilapidated structure. Callan reiterated those points last Tuesday, reminding the audience that Goodnoe's proposal hinges on a due diligence period to determine the unknown costs associated with the building-obstacles that any potential use would have to consider. Callan described initial estimates from Goodnoe's general contractor and hazardous material subcontractor as "ominous, but worthy of exploration." If Goodnoe determined their project unfeasible at the end of the period, they would give their research to the city, as well as returning the property.

Callan also emphasized that the subject of the meeting was the Mount Adams property, not the proposed vineyard. Nevertheless, the vineyard became a focal point for speakers skeptical of the project employees' estimated number, nationality and moral character. Commenters also worried that SOGO would bring more subsidized or low-income housing to the area, despite reminders from Callan and council members that the apartments would be Market rate.

 

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