The city of John Day is purchasing a 53-acre property from DR Johnson Lumber to improve city connectivity, create a new wastewater treatment facility and open the doors for a number of possible improvement projects.
The $519,000 purchase of the Oregon Pine property was finalized during Tuesday’s John Day City Council meeting.
John Day City Manager Nick Green said the property was competitively priced and “a screaming good deal.” While the real market value of the property is $383,720, the city is paying 23 cents per square foot for the property, compared to 37 cents per square foot for the Industrial Park, Green said.
The 53 acres is adjacent to the 30-acre plot housing the city’s current wastewater treatment plant and extends west to Patterson Bridge Road and across the river to Highway 26.
The sites combined create an 83-acre complex Green has called the John Day Innovation Gateway.
The purchase would allow for the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant to be built outside the floodplain and allow uninterrupted operation of the current plant during construction.
Once the new plant is completed, the current plant could be cleared, allowing access to 30 acres of riverfront property. Green said this land could then be used for a variety of purposes. The current plant’s permit to operate, issued by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, expired in 2007 and will not be reissued due to the plant’s age and proximity to the river.
To improve connectivity in the city, Green also wants to extend Seventh Street through the new lot to Patterson Bridge Road and to create over a mile of trail along the north side of the John Day River to restore public access.
The property also includes an industrial scale shop, which could be used by the city’s public works department to store its equipment indoors. This would allow the city to redevelop the parcel of land adjacent to the Seventh Street Complex park, where the department is currently housed.
Green has high aspirations for the property.
He wants to beautify it by adding a welcome sign and botanical gardens at the western end of the property to create a more welcoming entrance to the city on Highway 26. He said this space could also be used for commercial development, such as showcase greenhouses, a local market, a restaurant and a microbrewery.
Green said the property could be used to house hydroponic greenhouses to provide year-round growing opportunities using reclaimed water from a proposed wastewater treatment plant, which is scheduled for a feasibility study this summer.
The site could potentially house an amphitheater, an agricultural experiment and research station, a visitor center or a new school.
The land purchase is part of Green’s growth strategy for the city. He said with well-placed investment and development the city could attract new residents including digital commuters, young families and active retirees.
To facilitate the influx of new residents he is focusing on digital marketing and branding, improving recreational amenities, improving broadband connectivity and developing new housing options.
To best determine what development projects will benefit residents, the city, county, hospital and school district are working with Oregon Solutions, a group that crowd sources solutions to local problems. On May 11, representatives from the groups will have their first meeting to discuss priorities and goals. Results of the community survey will be made public July 17.
Over the next three months, the groups will work with Oregon Solutions to survey residents preferences for a project. Green’s priority is the new wastewater treatment plant.