COOS BAY — If Jordan Cove decides to end its part in the Community Enhancement Plan several years down the line, city, county and port officials will need to come up with plan B.

The proposed Jordan Cove Energy Project would be built in the Bay Area Enterprise Zone (waterfront commercial and industrial areas in North Bend, Coos Bay, Charleston and along the rail to Hauser). This rural enterprise zone is an economic development tool used to attract business to economically depressed areas, giving companies property tax breaks for various periods of time.

But Jordan Cove officials say the possibility of having more money in their pockets that would have otherwise gone toward property taxes was a non-factor in their choice to locate on the North Spit. It was the deep-water port that caught their eye.

Before the Community Enhancement Plan can go into effect, the enterprise zone sponsors (Oregon International Port of Coos Bay, Coos County and the cities of Coos Bay and North Bend) each have to green light Jordan Cove’s long-term rural enterprise zone property tax exemption application. They would do so on one condition: In exchange for granting Jordan Cove a property tax break for 19 years, the company would instead have to pay an annual community service fee.

The fee has been touted as a tool to boost economic development, school infrastructure improvements and the North Spit taxing districts.

The enterprise zone was created in 1986 by the four sponsor entities. Margaret Barber, Coos Curry Douglas Business Development Corporation’s community development director for Coos and Curry counties, said the zone will sunset in 2018, though it's likely it will be renewed.

"If it sunsets and it's not renewed, that would not impact tax abatement already granted during an established period of time," she said.

Should Jordan Cove decide to pull out of the CEP earlier, though, the bulk of its property tax dollars would go to the North Bay Urban Renewal District. If that district is disbanded, about half would go to local education entities and be taken away through the state funding equalization formula; the rest would go to Coos County and the North Spit taxing entities.

If the county were to disband the URD and if the zone sponsors terminated the enterprise zone, those property tax dollars would be spread out more evenly among education, the county and the taxing entities. The Oregon Business Development Department (Business Oregon) has the final say in terminating an enterprise zone, and would need a resolution requesting termination from the zone sponsors.

In this case, Coos County stands to benefit the most from ending both the urban renewal district and enterprise zone: It would get 16 percent of the company’s property tax dollars, projected to be nearly $4 million a year.

Jordan Cove public affairs director Michael Hinrichs reiterated that the company has had no influence on the CEP discussions.

“It might have been something that came up a long time ago, but we’re certainly not driving anything on the CEP,” he said. “It’s truly a community-driven effort. It’s not on our end that we’re requesting anything.”

Port CEO David Koch is out of town and could not be reached.

Editor's note: CCD Business Development Corporation's Margaret Barber clarified that while the Bay Area Enterprise Zone will sunset in 2018, it will almost certainly be renewed. Even if it's not renewed, any tax abatement already granted would continue, she said.

Reporter Chelsea Davis can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 239, or by email at chelsea.davis@theworldlink.com. Follow her on Twitter: @ChelseaLeeDavis.

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