The Daily 750

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LNG: Warrenton Zoning Vote Tomorrow

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A week or so ago there was a packed CEDC (Clatsop Economic Development Council) meeting, with Betsy Johnson and Deborah Boone as the featured speakers. The meeting began with reports from the various CEDC groups. I can't remember the name of the fellow who gave an interesting if rather detailed report on the various successes of the Fisheries Project, but when he asked if there were any questions most of us were surprised that there was. One. From John Compere, Calpine's spokesperson, who asked if there were any "synergies" between the Port's LNG project and the fisheries. Why, yes, there are. Several. There was so much gasping at my table that I couldn't hear or understand the details of how, among other things, millions of gallons of Young's Bay water could be sucked up and create not only LNG but also the world's biggest cold storage plant for fish, which apparently we've all been wanting to build.

There was no rebuttal.

On my right sat Peter Gearin, Port of Astoria Executive Director, across from Susan Trabucco, the former Calpine spokesperson who resigned sometime around the time she and Gearin became personally involved, both smiling appreciatively. On my right were a number of people, all holding their breath and looking at each other in mortification at the pure-t gall of Compere to try and turn this meeting into an LNG referendum. We were there for Betsy and Deborah, not LNG. We had to let it pass.

Let me ask again: What major industry sits alone by itself on hundreds of acres of I-2 land?

And this: Would you rather live here? Or here?

Tomorrow, at 6:00pm, the Warrenton City Council will hold a public hearing on Calpine's request to rezone 466 acres of land on the Skipanon Pensinsula and to change the development code so that LNG imports, regassification and transfer facilities are permitted within the new zone.

The meeting will be held at the Warrenton Community Center, 170 SW Third Street.

Written comments must be received by 5pm Thursday. Drive them to the City (225 South Main Avenue) or fax them to 503.861.2351. Carol Parker is the City's Interim Planning Director.

Patrick McGee, in the Community Forum section of his website, has published the following Open Letter to the Warrenton City Commisssion:

We, the undersigned, demand that the Warrenton City Commission deny the request by Calpine Corporation to re-zone the Skipanon Peninsula. Public participation, as required under Land Use Goal 1, has been totally inadequate, due to significant irregularities that occurred prior to and during the Warrenton Planning Commission meeting of October 12, when the zoning change was recommended in a 4-to-3 vote.

Lack of Proper Notification of the Public:
Members of the public who testified at previous public hearings concerning the zoning of the Skipanon Peninsula were denied the required 21-day notice prior to the meeting of October 12, and could not, therefore, adequately prepare their testimony.

Insufficient Preparation by Planning Commission Members:
Planning Commission members said they had not had an opportunity to review all the materials presented to them by the Planning Commission staff, including letters from two state agencies (ODOT and DLCD) which asserted that information crucial to the decision had not yet been provided by Calpine Corporation. ODOT asked that a continuance of the hearing be declared until the requested information was provided by the applicant, Calpine Corporation. Recognizing that they were not prepared to make a decision, the Planning Commission, early in the October 12 meeting, unanimously passed a resolution to defer decision on the proposal to re-zone the Skipanon Peninsula.

Violation of Rules of Order:
Immediately following that action, while Planning Commission members were discussing the date to continue the hearing Calpine attorney, Mark Whitlow, approached the podium, interrupted the discussion, and insinuated himself– uninvited– into the Planning Commission's discussion. He spoke for seven minutes about how “time was running out” and strongly advised the Planning Commission to ignore the state agencies’ requests– contained in letters that the Planning Commission had not yet reviewed– for more information. Furthermore, after the public hearing was closed, and while the commissioners were deliberating, Mr. Whitlow walked up to the city attorneys sitting at the staff table, and passed them a handwritten note. The contents of the note have yet to be made public.

Lack of Fairness of Proceedings:
While Calpine attorney Mr. Whitlow was speaking, other members of the audience protested the procedural mischief. They were called “out of order” by the Planning Commission chair, and told to return to their seats, which they did. When questioned by an audience member, the Planning Commission chair said that Mr. Whitlow had been “invited” to speak, although no such verbal invitation had been made when Mr. Whitlow approached the podium. Following Mr. Whitlow's lecture, the Planning Commission, at the direction of the city attorneys, decided unanimously to reverse itself and vote on the re-zoning that same evening.

Ignoring State Agencies:
The Planning Commission, upon the direction of Calpine attorney, Mark Whitlow, chose to ignore requests from the Department of Land Conservation and Development(DLCD) to continue the hearing until Calpine Corporation complied with its request for required documentation.

No Independent Project Assessment:
Petitioners have repeatedly requested outside, independent evaluations of Calpine Corporations' proposals. To date, only industry representatives have been allowed to offer assessments. Public safety and fairness mandate that an independent review be completed before proceeding with a decision to re-zone, keeping in mind that our local communities stand to lose control of the development process once the decision to re-zone is made.

No Design Plans:
No design plans have been submitted. In fact, even the sketchiest ideas about what might be developed on the site are changed frequently by industry representatives. For instance, it is understood that plans for the proposed co-generation plant have now been scrapped, and at this point, Calpine Corporation has not revealed how it plans to re-warm the liquified gas.

In addition to the above serious irregularities, we, the undersigned, have many concerns about the general conduct of the Warrenton Planning Commission meetings. We recognize that members of the commission are citizen volunteers who are not necessarily well versed in the art of conducting public meetings. However, it has become increasingly clear that the commission members have received no training in such skills. In almost all facets of the meetings, the commissioners have been dependent on the city staff and city attorneys to “walk them through” the hearings and to advise– even direct– specific actions, such as making motions, seconding motions, even calling for votes. It is very difficult for the public to have confidence in the decisions made by the Warrenton Planning Commission when it appears that the entire process is being conducted, not by the Planning Commission, but by the city staff and attorneys, specifically at the behest of the applicant.

The recommendation to re-zone the Skipanon Peninsula for use by the liquified natural gas industry carries significant public safety, economic, social, and environmental consequences. Once the decision is made to re-zone, our communities will lose the ability to maintain local control over the development of the Skipanon Peninsula, and indeed, the mouth of the Columbia River. Our elected representatives must inform themselves, and the citizens, of the consequences of such industry before any re-zoning is accomplished.

These 25 and many other witnesses to the July 13 and October 12, 2005 Warrenton Planning Commission Meetings

Fred White
Marilyn Carney
Dorothy Martin
Tom Duncan

Rose Priven
Denny Page
Cheryl Johnson
Peter Huhtala

Nancy Brock
Ted Messing
Deborah Donnelly
Bob Goldberg

Susan Skinner
Lori Durheim
Jan Gregor
Samantha Duncan

Jay Kiddle
Josie Peper
Jennefer Smith
Jocelyn Heller

Karin Temple
Sue Zerangue
Del Carney
Robert Clark