- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—The Port of Skagit has the green light to approach the state agency managing the North Cascades Gateway Center and seek a transition to local control.

Th e S k a g i t C o u n t y Board of Commissioners made local approval of the port’s proposal official Monday, following similar approvals from port and Sedro-Woolley officials.

C o m m i s s i o n e r s Ke n Dahlstedt and Ron Wesen approved the port’s plan moving forward. Commissioner Lisa Janicki recused herself from the meeting because Janicki Bioenergy, a company owned and operated by her in-laws, has become a major player in the potential redevelopment of the historic campus near Sedro-Woolley.

The Sedro-Woolley City Council and Port of Skagit Board of Commissioners approved the port’s plan last week.

Port officials plan to present a proposal to the state Department of Enterprise Services for an official transfer of the 225-acre campus by the end of July.

At the port commission’s July 20 meeting, Port Executive Director Patsy Martin presented a proposal, which including leasing part of the former Northern State Hospital campus to Janicki Bioenergy.

Ja n i c k i B i o e n e r g y approached local officials with the concept of converting the campus into a technology development and research center for its Omni Processor, a machine that converts human sewage into water and energy.

If Janicki is approved for the lease, it could create 1,000 living-wage jobs in Sedro-Woolley, an exciting prospect for the port, which aims to grow local job opportunities.

But Janicki is not the only potential tenant.

“This isn’t necessarily just one company that’s going to be there. We’ve been working on this plan since before this company came forward,” Wesen said Monday.

The idea of renovating the campus is to revitalize the local economy.

The county, port and city launched a study in January 2014 for redevelopment of the historic hospital campus, which closed in 1972. Early study results showed the community wants public access to the site, and supports the idea of mixeduse development.

“East county, over the years, has suffered a lot of economic setbacks,” Dahlstedt said. “And when Northern State closed, it was just devastating for employment and the economic health of the area, and I think this is an opportunity … to maybe turn that around finally and revitalize.”

The port’s plan would transfer the campus to local ownership in phases in order to honor existing leases and smooth the change for site employees, according to port documents.

Several steps remain b e f o r e r e d e v e l o p m e n t could break ground:

Th e s t a t e m u s t approve the transfer to local control and agree to maintain site during transition.

Companies from the private sector need to commit to leasing space at the campus.

The city, county and port need to finish a restoration plan.

The port needs to take over management of the site.

The city and county need to commit to offsite improvements to accommodate traffic.

The city needs to annex the campus.

The next public meeting with the state and local partners is set for 10 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23.

“The Port of Skagit, City of Sedro-Woolley, Skagit County, and other community partners are making significant progress in their efforts to accommodate community interests and goals for future use of the 225-acre campus,” Enterprise Services spokeswoman Ann Sweeny said in a news release.


(c)2015 the Skagit Valley Herald (Mount Vernon, Wash.)

Visit the Skagit Valley Herald (Mount Vernon, Wash.) at www.goskagit.com

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