New OSP building remains in limbo

By Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer December 12, 2012 02:20 pm

The Oregon State Police likely will build a new station at the La Grande Business and Technology Park, though a time frame for the project has not been determined.

That information was included in a report Monday night to the La Grande City Council by Dan Stark, executive director of the Union County Economic Development Corporation. Stark was at a work session to give the city his quarterly update on UCEDC activities.

Previously, the OSP had plans to consolidate the Pendleton and Ontario forensics facilities into a larger lab at the business park, which is situated at the corner of Highway 30 and Gekeler Lane. The project also called for construction of a new OSP station to replace the one on Island Avenue.

Last July, state police officials decided against the new forensics facility, saying the move may not be cost effective. But during his report Monday night, Stark said the idea of building the new station at the park is very much alive. 

He said the UCEDC has offers from lessors for three lots where the station would be built, though he added the OSP has not established a timeline for the project.

“The word out of Salem is patience as they try to get through this process. We’ll just sit back and wait and have patience,” he said.

The UCEDC and the city are partners in the 65-acre business park. Stark holds out hope that La Grande might one day become the home of a regional forensics laboratory.

“The forensics lab is suspended at this time, but not necessarily gone,” he said.

In more talk about the business park, Stark said that 25 acres have been re-certified by the state as “shovel ready,” though another portion lacks that coveted designation because it is situated in the 100-year flood plain and is subject to different rules when it comes to development.

Stark said efforts to attract tenants continue. He said some activity lately looks promising, though there have been no purchase offers.

“We’ve had a number of inquiries and for those that have appeared to be serious, I’ve had them talk with the city planner about zoning,” he said. “I’ve had a few people pick up material, go look, and then come back and say they’re interested.”

City Planning Director Mike Boquist said he has received no applications from companies wanting to buy land at the park.

Stark said Union County is set to close the deal on the purchase of a 60-acre, large lot industrial parcel in the Baum Industrial Park near Island City. The county and UCEDC are partners in the effort to make large lot industrial land available locally.

“We’re already looking at putting that land into the state process for shovel-ready certification. It definitely meets the requirements,” Stark said.

Also during his report, Stark said results of UCEDC’s business visitation survey, conducted as part of business recruitment and expansion program, is nearly complete and will be made public soon. 

Monday’s city council work session also included updates from Boquist on planning matters, including the city parks master plan, urban growth boundary expansion, and land development code amendments.

Boquist said the main objective of the parks plan is maintenance of current facilities. 

On the UGB issue, Boquist said his department is working on a property exchange that would yield 200 acres of developable land near Pierce Road.

He said that tract is more desirable than a 160-acre tract along Highway 203 the city had planned to include in the boundary. Boquist said the 160-acre tract is situated in a flood plain and is subject to stringent state wetlands regulations.

In other discussion, Boquist said land development code amendments being considered includes new development standards and review criteria for wireless communication facilities and kiosks.

Also, there is a proposal to add bed and breakfast inns as a conditional use in residential zones.