Biomass dead; moratorium on light industrial development downtown alive

City council keeps it in place at site where county sought to build plant




Plans for biomass in downtown Vancouver may be dead, but the city council on Monday night kept alive a moratorium stopping development at the site.

Earlier this year, Clark County announced plans for a biomass plant at West 11th and Harney streets. It stirred controversy that pitted downtown residents and the city council against Clark County commissioners and the private company that would become its partner. The plan was abandoned last month by that company, Schneider Electric.

In a move that helped to thwart the plans, the city council passed a surprise emergency six-month moratorium on development in the light industrial overlay zone where the biomass plant would have been built. On Monday, the council agreed to extend that moratorium to Oct. 10, 2012.

City councilors said they want to keep the temporary development ban in place to give time to the city’s planning commission to draft new zoning for the light industrial overlay district. Allowing development of a power plant there, they said, clashes with the city’s Vancouver City Center Vision plan, passed in 2007.

“Recently, Clark County’s proposal to build a biomass energy facility in the West Government Subdistrict of the downtown brought to light significant inconsistencies between the vision for this subdistrict and the uses that are allowed by the city’s Land Use and Development Code,” a staff report read.

Unintended effects

A light industrial overlay was meant to allow existing businesses to grow and expand. There are several such long-established businesses near the Clark County Courthouse.

Unintentionally, the current code also allows “a wide range of new industrial uses (to) potentially locate in this area, many of which would conflict with existing residential, office and commercial uses, as well as the future vision for this area,” the staff report said.

The moratorium also prevents existing businesses in the light industrial zone from applying for new development. Only 12 parcels between McLoughlin Boulevard and West Eighth Street are affected — and Vancouver Planning Review Manager Chad Eiken said that none of the other businesses has any such applications filed with the city.

Attorneys for Schneider Electric sued Vancouver in October, saying the moratorium violated planning laws and due process because the city was using it to stop a single project. That lawsuit has since been dropped.

Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542 or or or