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Deer Park accepts expansion aid

Improvements sought at business, industrial park

A $1.8 million federal grant has kick-started a long-discussed plan by Deer Park city officials to increase development at a light industrial park next to the Deer Park Airport.

On Aug. 1 Deer Park’s City Council formally accepted the Economic Development Administration grant, requiring the city to produce a matching $1.8 million to tackle the expansion project.

The investments will create about a mile of all-weather roadway, plus water, sewer and storm drain improvements for the city’s existing business park and adjacent light industrial center.

By accepting the federal grant, Deer Park officials are committed to producing $1.2 million through a local improvement district and providing another $600,000 from the city.

The city doesn’t have that much money on hand, so the plan will be to seek roughly $900,000 through a Washington state Community Economic Revitalization Board grant. If the city gets that grant, it will then try to get another $900,000 through a state-managed loan program, the state’s Public Works Trust Fund, said Joe Tortorelli, an economic development consultant.

The state’s trust fund loans are meant to be repaid over 20 years. If the city of Deer Park borrows $600,000, it would repay $30,000 per year, Tortorelli said.

Nearly all the property in the light industrial and business park is privately owned, said Tortorelli, who began working on the project six years ago.

Five landowners together own the 15 parcels that will form the 144-acre local improvement district. The tax rate they’ll pay for the improvements hasn’t yet been set.

Mayor Robert Whisman said a few area property owners were initially concerned about property value impacts. But in recent weeks he’s seen widespread support, especially from school officials and business owners.

Most residents understand that expanding the tax base and adding more businesses will likely keep water and sewer rates from rising, Whisman said.

Tortorelli said building about a mile of all-weather road along Cedar and along Sixth will allow full access to the parcels included in the project. A number of area companies have already said they would move into the light industrial park once the improvements are approved, Tortorelli said.

Penni Loomis, manager of the Deer Park Airport, said the proximity to the municipal airport will help make the entire area more attractive to light industrial companies, as well as warehouse and distribution operations.

“We don’t have the services for heavy industrial users. But this will be a great place for other light manufacturing and other companies,” she said.