As of Wednesday, June 5, 2013
The Dalles Planning Commission will hold a hearing Thursday, June 6, to consider a request by Google to construct a two-story building that exceeds height limits set in city ordinance.
The quasi-judicial hearing is set for 6 p.m. in city hall council chambers.
City staff is recommending the request be approved, since the proposal – to build a building up to 80 feet tall – will not overwhelm the other two relatively tall buildings on the property, and is in an isolated area.
The new building will go between the two existing buildings. “The building will be large, but not out of scale with its surroundings,” a staff report noted.
Google did not specify how tall the building would be, but said it could be up to 80 feet. City rules limit buildings to 55 feet in industrial zones if they are for human occupancy, and up to 75 feet if they are not for human occupancy. The ordinance does allow for a variance, or exception, to that rule, and Google is seeking such a variance.
“The applicant is trying to efficiently use its property. Based on current technology, a two-story building is more efficient than a one-story building,” the staff report said.
No objections were raised to the proposal when notices on it were sent to adjoining properties, the staff report noted.
The new building also opens the possibility that Google could seek a second 15-year term of tax abatements on the new construction, said Dan Durow, economic development specialist for the city.
Google’s initial construction qualified under a state law for tax abatements. The agreement reached with the city and county gave Google a 100 percent tax abatement on improvements on its property, but not on the land itself.
As part of the deal, it had to provide at least 35 full-time jobs with wages exceeding 150 percent of the county’s average annual wages. It also had to do at least $16.9 million in construction.
Durow said Google easily met both of those criteria.
Durow said Google could either put the new construction under the umbrella of the current 15-year tax abatement period – which is about halfway over – or seek a new 15-year term for the new construction.
If it does seek a new 15-year term, it can qualify one of two ways, Durow said.
It could go with a $12.5 million minimum investment and add 35 jobs, or it could put in $200 million investment and add 10 jobs.
He said it is common for businesses receiving tax abatements to seek renewals in their terms when they add construction.
He said if Google does decide to pursue construction – “we don’t know if they are yet,” he noted – it would have to make its application for a tax abatement before construction began.
Land use permits issued by the city are good for one year, and can be renewed for an additional year.
Because Google has not specified if it will go with a building 75 feet tall or 80 feet tall, the city is treating it as if both heights are being sought.
Each height requires a different procedure – the shorter is a variance, the taller is a conditional use permit – but both are handled in the same fashion.
Dick Gassman, city planning director, said it was unusual to have a height variance request right at the boundary between a variance and a conditional use permit.
He said Google won’t complete its design until it knows what the planning commission decides.
For instance, if the planning commission limits them to 75 feet, “they’ll have to take that into consideration in their design.”
Dave Karlson, Google’s data center site manager in The Dalles, could not be reached for comment.