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PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — Developers who want to build over 1 million square feet of buildings on a former Oregon City landfill received unanimous approval from commissioners — with one abstention — to receive city-staff help in perusing grant funding.

Developers say they’ll require $40 million in public funds, or their project won’t be built. Their proposed North End development would cover 62 acres and cost about $350 million to construct at the intersection of Interstate 205 and Highway 213.

Summit Development Group has approached Clackamas County officials to discuss potential alternative funding of its proposed 524 apartment units, along with boutique and large-format retail space, through the county roads fund, lottery fund or American Rescue Plan Act dollars. Summit also has asked about an application through the county for EPA brownfields grants.

City Commissioner Frank O’Donnell, now serving as chair of the Urban Renewal Commission, said the approval of staff time shouldn’t be construed as the commission’s support of the project itself.

Former Mayor Doug Neeley, who is now a member of Oregon City’s Urban Renewal Commission, on May 4 made a successful motion to allow city staff to help the developer to pursue grants, in his second attempt to do so. During the April 20 meeting, there wasn’t a second member of the commission willing to take Neeley’s motion to a vote.

City Commissioner Rocky Smith has repeatedly expressed concerns about the project and abstained from the vote; he remains concerned about how the project, if it moves forward, would fit in with urban-renewal plans that remain in flux. Smith was previously an elected official during the failed Rivers shopping-mall proposal on Rossman Landfill about a decade ago.

“I do not want to see us repeating history again and again and again,” Smith said. “We’re going to be in an end game where it’s a divisive community argument, and it will fall apart.”

Commission President Denyse McGriff, who is serving as interim mayor, agreed with Smith that more planning is needed for envisioning the future of the city’s urban-renewal area.

“We don’t want the community to get ahead of us, the decision-makers,” McGriff said.

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Rossman Landfill collected about 60% of municipal waste in the Metro region from the 1960s until Oregon DEQ detected contamination of groundwater in 1976 and terminated waste collection in 1983.

Summit has reported spent $2.6 million on planning, engineering, due diligence and other efforts necessary to receive unanimous approval for the land-use proposal from Oregon City’s Planning Commission on July 26, 2021.