This fall, the Port of Astoria began partnering with the city on a sweeping master plan to upgrade parts of port property, encourage business and beautify the west end of town where the port sits.
At a virtual meeting November 3rd, members of the public saw a presentation of the plan, which echoed the ambitious goals of other plans promoted in the past at the port. But as planning proceeds, some residents remember other past proposed scenarios that were abandoned without follow through.
Port Executive Director said at the November meeting that he’s aware of the port’s history and is working to garner public trust. He addressed the issue during the meeting’s question and answer period.
Will Isom: “I think there’s a general theme among some of these questions, whether they’re talking about timelines or early wins. Within the project advisory committee the word “accountability has some up several times. And I do think that’s going to be important moving forward, once we get this plan done, that this thing doesn’t just sit on a shelf. And so what I would foresee, is an approach with various timelines and deadlines that the port and the city would be looking to meet. Especially with some of the history of things that have gone on at the port, with previous plans, master plans that maybe haven’t been implemented.”
Isom was referring, in particular, to a previous master plan proposed in 2010 for sweeping changes to the port, with the intention of making it a marine business hub with tourism aspects. On the strength of that plan, businesses such as Englund Marine relocated their companies to port property, only to have the port change gears abruptly with the election of new port leadership. The port pivoted and pursued log handling exports instead, and the plan was forgotten.
Isom said in an interview after the meeting that the port is very aware of public misgivings about follow through. But he doesn’t want to play a blame game now about the past.
He said the port is a public entity and residents vote on commissioners who are charged with making major decisions. Long term turnover in admin and commission can hamper consistency.
“Every time you get a new regime it can trigger a reset,” he said, adding that the port needs to be able to respond to changing circumstances.
Isom said there are two ways the port could approach development – to seek investment partners and ask them what they want to do, or to create a plan and attract investors who are aligned with that. The port is trying to be more responsive to community needs by creating a plan first. He said funding for the current master plan will likely be a mix of port and city, money, grants and private investment.
The Port of Astoria is small compared to other regional ports. It has a small staff, and responsibility for an airport, two marine facilities, and a cruise ship terminal, among other resources. Isom said he’s lucky to have had consistency in staff through the pandemic.
Will Isom: We need to make sure that moving into the future, even if there are changes at the commission level or the administrative level at the port, that this plan can continue to move forward. So that this plan can continue to move forward. And so I think having good accountability for how we move this plan forward will be really important. So that we can see these things implemented and it’s not just something we talk about.
The next port master plan public meeting is happening December 14 at 5:30 pm on Zoom. For zoom log in info, see the City of Astoria website. More info here.