UPDATE: Port of Whitman County officials have confirmed that the 5 million dollar state loan to pay for the property is no longer available. The commissioners will discuss possible state funding options during a special meeting that’s expected by the end of the month.
The Port of Whitman County is continuing with its controversial plan to develop an industrial research park in the City of Pullman after losing its anchor tenant.
Local startup company AgTech OS had agreed to partner with the port to develop a biodiesel plant on land near the Whispering Hills subdivision. AgTech OS announced on Tuesday that they were looking for a new site for their proposed plant due to strong opposition from many Pullman residents.
The port commissioners have agreed to buy land on Wawawai Road on the West side of Pullman for their proposed Agriculture Advancement Campus. The 111 million dollar biodiesel plant was set to be the anchor tenant for the site. The land needs to be rezoned to Industrial Research Park to allow for the proposed campus. The port had filed its rezone request to the City of Pullman before AgTech OS pulled out of the partnership. Pullman City Council will ultimately decide on rezoning the undeveloped property from residential to IRP.
Opponents of the biodiesel plant have also argued against rezoning the land from residential for the proposed campus. The opposition includes the region’s largest private employer Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories in Pullman and its Founder and President Dr. Ed Schweitzer.
The port’s Executive Director Kara Riebold issued a statement today announcement that the local government agency will continue with its rezone request. Riebold stated the proposed campus “blends seamlessly with the community while supporting local industries and jobs.” She went on to say that the port will continue its role granted by the voters of Whitman County to support economic vitality as it sticks with the rezone request. Riebold says there are two other companies that have approach the port with an interest in locating in the proposed campus.
The Washington State Department of Commerce has loaned the port 5 million dollars to help pay for the land and the utilities for the site. There is no word yet from the port if the loan is still available from the state after AgTech OS pulled out of the project. The port has committed to spending 1.25 million in local tax dollars to help pay for utilities to the campus. The port’s purchase of the property is contingent on the land being rezoned.
The rezone process with the City of Pullman will involve multiple opportunities for public comment.