Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald



A large general-commercial property near Interstate 84 has received renewed interest because of its development potential - and because it used to be a landfill.

The Bootsma family filed an application with the city about four years ago to create a subdivision then named Windmill Village.

It consisted of 17 acres of land zoned for commercial use on Windmill Road, which is located east of the interstate near the Campbell Street interchange, on property annexed by the city several years ago.

Time expired on the application, however.

It was preliminarily platted for 15 acres and two parcels in 2008. That expired in 2009, according to the city.

The current, very preliminary, proposal involves almost 14 acres that would be subdivided in some fashion.

The Bootsmas have not filed any applications.

The site "presents some interesting challenges for development," City Manager Mike Kee wrote late last month in his weekly report about city government.

State and local officials met with Bootsma family representatives in late February to discuss development options.

Potential cleanup of the site was a primary topic of conversation. Employees with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality's Solid Waste and Cleanup Program talked about what likely would need to be done to make the site usable, Kee reported.

One of the concerns cited by the DEQ would be methane gas emitted as the waste continues decomposing - a common occurrence at old landfills.

Another concern is that landfill ground takes time to stabilize. It might not be a solid enough foundation yet on which to build large commercial structures, said Jenny Long, city planner.

The Baker City landfill ceased operation nearly 40 years ago, in 1973, Long said.

It's a site with available services and other businesses and amenities nearby. The Bootsmas have installed water and sewer to the location, she said.

It might be suitable as a recreational vehicle park because this type of use would require less construction, Long stated.

This is just one example of a use that might result in less preparation and follow-up than a project consisting of large commercial buildings.

A representative for the family, Ted Douglas, a principal broker with Baker City Realty, said he had no comment about the matter because saying anything right now "would be pure conjecture."

Long also noted that former landfills are being re-purposed in other parts of the state.

A Home Depot has been sitting atop a closed and covered landfill in Oregon City for nearly a decade.

Some of the issues that needed to be addressed in connection to this retail project included: potential human exposure to landfill gas emissions; groundwater contamination during construction; fire or explosion because of landfill gas buildup; settlement of the refuse; and the possibility of "disturbance to unknown wastes that may be in the landfill," the DEQ told the Daily Journal of Commerce soon after the warehouse-style store was completed.