We Want to Build Homes on Your Toxic Landfill, Says Pacific Gales

Elk River Development (a new entity) is seeking to lease Curry County-owned land that contains the closed landfill site north of Port Orford. They plan to construct “single-family residential units for transient lodging, short-term or long-term rental use” in connection with the proposed Pacific Gales Golf Course (a project of Elk River Property Development). A Board of Commissioners workshop to discuss the lease proposal is scheduled for this Wednesday, September 28, at 10 a.m.      Notice of Workshop, 9-28-2016

The draft lease is in the BOC Workshop Packet, 9-28-2016 following two pages of budget information that refer to another workshop topic. County Counsel John Huttl’s memorandum to the BOC is also included. It summarizes the lease terms and lays out potential benefits to the county. However, annual rents on the property (proposed at $6,000 per year) will not be realized until the golf course and a significant number of homes have been built. Additional income to the county would include 6 percent per year of total lodging rentals, and real property taxes.

Page four states the contingencies that would have to be met before any money comes to Curry County: (1) ERPD or its successor obtains approval for and develops Pacific Gales; (2) ERD obtains all approvals for developing housing in accordance with its concept; and (3) both EPRD and ERD or their successors come up with the financing for all this. Until then, zero dollars for county coffers.

Certainly one of the main issues is whether anything at all should be built near the old landfill. It is well-known that toxics were disposed of there for decades and that monitoring of the site is mandated under an ongoing permit from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. It is not well known how much contamination of groundwater has occurred and is still occurring. Is there a plume of toxic leachate emanating from the landfill? How might this impact drinking water wells for the housing project? No water or sewer utilities serve the area, which is outside the City of Port Orford. And what about disturbance of soils so close to old burial pits? The lease states that anyone who stays in the golf course housing must sign a waiver of any claims against the county related to the landfill.

According to County Counsel’s memo, the lease could be approved at a meeting of the Board of Commissioners in October. No hurry in Curry? That rule of thumb goes out the window when developers walk in the door.