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Methane causes more pain for property owner


A meeting to discuss pollution issues at a former landfill site may have positive implications that dwarf the immediate problems.

Madison South Neighborhood Association and the Save N.E. 82nd Avenue Coalition called the meeting to discuss the recent discovery of the buildup of methane gas at the 25-acre site on Northeast 82nd Avenue at Siskiyou Street. Tim Spencer and Bob Schwarz of the Department of Environmental Quality reported that gas has been building up at the site at a higher rate than they had expected. There is no danger of an explosive event on the site, but there is some concern that the gas has migrated underground to adjacent residential properties to the south and may be building up in confined spaces. This hasn't occurred in any of the residences they have inspected, but they have been unable to gain access to all of them.

They added that owner Frank Hashem has fully cooperated in the installation of facilities to dispose of the excess gas. Hashem attended the meeting.

Following the DEQ presentation, planner Bill Barber of Central Northeast Neighbors presented a study by a Portland State University graduate urban planning class on possible scenarios for the redevelopment of 82nd Avenue and the landfill. They developed three scenarios. The first called for light industrial activity on the site, as called for by current zoning, and improved sidewalks on the street. The second called for a combination of retail and professional offices in buildings two to three stories high, and a landscaped median on the street. The third called for Main Street development, with taller residential structures containing ground floor retail, and a streetcar in the middle lane (see “Activists push for east Portland streetcars,” page 8). When asked if the class had contacted existing businesses or landowners, Barber said, “Yes, they did.”

“No, they didn't,” Hashem said in response to this. “They had a lot of good ideas, but you have to work with people on the ground. There are professionals who know market conditions and they have to be consulted. The bottom line is finance, who will put money on the line.” He was more positive about the suggestions for public improvements, which he said could bring business.

Hashem later engaged in an amiable conversation with several Madison South board members, and said he planned to start attending meetings regularly. It was a breakthrough for the neighborhood group. Last year, when Hashem proposed to sell the property to a developer who planned to put big-box retail there, neighbors organized a campaign to oppose the idea. They said they attempted to engage Hashem in negotiations, but without success. Several board members expressed delight at his appearance last month.

“I'm a member,” Hashem said. “I've paid my dues.”
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