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"What price growth...?"

Port's land acquisition on the table

By Trisha Collopy
The Olympian

Grand Mound:
Residents debate the pros and cons of a development project.

ROCHESTER -- So far, there are no roadblocks to the Port of Olympia's plans to buy a 43-acre parcel near Grand Mound.

Now port officials must decide whether to spend $1.5 million to buy the land and develop it into a small industrial park.

South county residents who attended a public hearing in Rochester Monday night were far from unanimous.

Several supported the jobs the project could bring. But others oppose using public money for the project.

"How will this affect our property taxes? Will we be subsidizing it for several years?" Jim Kalkus asked.

"Why hasn't industry done this?" he added.

Rochester resident Art Sanchez said he is concerned that the area does not have the infrastructure to handle the new development.

"What I'm seeing there is Tukwila," notorious for its growth and congestion problems. "This area already has traffic problems," he said. "We can't handle this kind of growth right now."

But several others said the project is crucial to attract 30b5.

"I'd like to see industry so the people who live here work here," Grand Mound resident Pat Schoelkopf said.

"lssaquah or Tukwila, I'd welcome that here," said Dan Vander Kolk. "It would provide an industrial and commercial base for the area to support schools and other services."

State Sen. Gary Alexander a former port commissioner, said the lack of suitable south county sites is driving many manufacturers to build their plants in other communities.

"In the last legislative session, we heard no bigger deter- rent to development and job creation than buildable land and infrastructure," he said.

The comments followed a presentation by port officials on the land. Initial studies show that the land has only minor environmental problems: a small wetland and oak trees, that could provide a buffer zone.

The land has rail access, an important feature to many industrial firms, and it is close to Interstate 5

The northern part of the site should have sewer service by the end of the year, county officials said.

It was the third public hearing the port has conducted on the proposal in the past year

Port officials expect to make their final recommendation in July or August. Commissioners should vote at that time on whether to buy the land, which would be purchased in increments.

Trisha Collopy covers business for The Olympian. She can be reached at 754-5435.

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