The Clatsop County commission has rejected a new purchase and sale agreement with Agile Design, the company behind a proposed data center at the North Coast Business Park in Warrenton.
Emerging after nearly an hour of private talks in executive session, the Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on Wednesday night against a new proposal that outlined how the project could move forward.
Sarah Nebeker, the commission's chairwoman, called the situation “disappointing.”
“We did want this to move forward,” she said after the meeting.
Commissioner Mark Kujala said there were many issues that led him to vote against accepting the proposal.
“There were too many variables for both (sides),” Kujala said. “We both want to go back to the drawing board ... the county commission wants to relook at the property. I didn’t feel comfortable entering into a partnership at this time.”
The vote is a blow to entrepreneur Mark Cox, of Agile Design, who sought 67 acres at the county-owned business park. The proposed campus, across from Costco on 19th Street, would have included a nearly 100,000-square-foot data center and technology incubation space.
Agile Design has been doing due diligence on the property since August, and has received multiple extensions since being awarded the original $1.2 million purchase and sale agreement.
In April, the company asked the county to extend the agreement one day past a Tuesday deadline, explaining that more facts had become known about how to address wetlands mitigation.
But the monthslong deliberations made some on the commission want to step back and reevaluate how development at the business park should be approached.
“I think that we have realized that the North Coast Business Park as presently developed is inadequate to be a business park,” Commissioner Pamela Wev said after the meeting. “A business park by definition has infrastructure, utilities, zoning, certain expectations ... and we realized that that doesn’t exist. So we need to regroup and perhaps pursue cleaning up this mess.”
Wev has expressed her concerns about development at the business park in the past, calling for the county to step back and do a master plan for property. She believes the land will be more attractive to developers if the county does more to solve the long-standing wetlands issues.
Wev also said she took issue with the proposal because she felt Agile Design was asking for too much money from the county's industrial revolving fund, which helps with infrastructure improvements to support development.
“They were asking for us to be joint partners with them,” Wev said.
Cox said he and his team were disappointed by the decision, but hope to bring another proposal to the county commission.
“We understand the motion that was on the floor was whether or not to accept or decline this proposal that was set before the commissioners,” Cox said. “They have declined to accept this particular proposal, we are therefore hopeful that we could put together a future proposal that they might be more willing to stand behind.”
Cox believes part of the commission’s decision was based on concerns about the project's timeline.
“A decision needed to be made and we were very specific about what we wanted to accomplish in a particular timeline in the proposal, and I think that was a big part in their decision,” Cox said. “They may have felt uncomfortable with that, but from our perspective, it was necessary to ensure the highest probability of success for the project.”
Charles Conrow, who is working with Cox on the data center, added that the due diligence process introduced “more variables” into the equation — largely related to wetlands mitigation — which added more complexity into a new purchase and sale agreement.
“It’s not simply, 'There’s the land, this is the price' ... there are things that have to be worked through on both parts to get to a successful conclusion,” Conrow said. “We tried to lay that out in this purchase and sales agreement and that path was too quick and too much of a commitment to make a decision on tonight.”