Lane County Trash Fee Could Pay for Costly Goshen Industrial Scheme

Lane County leaders intending to build an industrial campus in the community of Goshen need millions to make up for the lack of infrastructure there. Although they've promised industrial users would pay, a new proposal would put residences and businesses on the hook when they take out the garbage.

Update, March 19: After the idea was panned by the editorial board of the Register-Guard and faced criticism from state legislators, Lane County officials now say they are rethinking the proposal. We will continue tracking developments.

Reports the Eugene Weekly (emphasis added):

The Lane County dump smells like fundraising to Commissioner Faye Stewart. A bill that has been introduced to the State Legislature, SB 248, would increase garbage “tipping” fees up to $10 more per ton at Short Mountain Landfill in order to raise funds for what has been dubbed the Goshen Region Employment and Transition (GREAT) Plan. The fee would apply to the entire county and would likely raise residential and business garbage fees.

Changing Goshen’s zoning designation from a rural industrial one to a more “urban” one would allow for bigger buildings, as Lane County’s lobbyist, Alex Cuyler, put it at the March 4 hearing of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (ENR). That proposed rezoning as well as the designation of Goshen as a “regionally significant industrial area” by the state has caused concern for land use advocates and others who have pointed to the area’s nationally inventoried wetlands, lack of sewage access and convoluted freeway access as barriers to development.


Mia Nelson of 1000 Friends of Oregon points out that Stewart had previously told the [Register-Guard] that “the county is determined not to use public money to pay for the redevelopment, requiring those who want to build on the site to add infrastructure as they make improvements.” 


Nelson says, “1000 Friends has warned from the beginning that large amounts of public subsidies would likely be needed because the Goshen site has so many challenges.” She adds, “The truth is going to continue to come out in bits and pieces: Despite the prior assurances, the reality is that Goshen will almost surely demand a high level of public sacrifice. The sooner the public fully understands that eventually the county will probably try to put their money on the line, the better.”

When Stewart was asked by the ENR committee, “What do your constituents think of that? Have you talked to them?” about a countywide fee to redevelop Goshen, Stewart said he had not. 

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Because garbage companies would transfer the extra costs to their customers, Lane County businesses and residences will see a fee increase, writes the Register-Guard, which also notes that the proposal would require state approval because it changes what such fees are used for:

Under state law, monies collected through landfill tipping fees have long been strictly earmarked for waste management purposes only.

In Lane County, the revenue goes toward operating the landfill and the county’s 16 garbage transfer sites, recycling and waste reduction programs, and cleaning up illegal dump sites.

The county wants more flexibility in how it can use those dollars for an initial period of 10 years, Lane County lobbyist Alex Cuyler says, in part because of revenue losses in other areas of county government.

With many other pressing projects demanding attention in Lane County, it's arguable whether this is the best place to spend $50 million of public money, says 1000 Friends' Mia Nelson:

“If we’re going to spend $50 million in public money, is this the right place?” she said. “How do all county residents feel about spending their garbage fees on this specific project?”

1000 Friends will continue to work on this proposal to ensure that Lane County does not waste taxpayer resources on project with significant environmental and financial barriers. You can comment on the proposal at a county public hearing on Tuesday, March 19, at 1:30 pm. More info here.

Read the Eugene Weekly article here.

Read the Register-Guard article here.