Dansons Inc, the parent company of Pit Boss, has been investing big into expanding their pellet production capabilities in recent years. With pellet grills, and now pellet fire pits, having a good supply of pellets is important to fuel growth. They opened the largest pellet production facility last year and announced plans to open two more in 2022. The pellet mills are to be located in Thomson, GA and Molalla, OR. Their effort to expand hasn’t been without problems though.
There is no word from Dansons if their Thomson, GA location has been launched yet. There were job postings on various websites and they filed for an LLC in February of 2022 for the operation. All signs point to a normal launch with that facility. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case with the facility in Molalla, OR.
Dansons selected a 16 acre site in Molalla that abuts the west edge of S Molalla Ave, and the north edge of Molalla Forest Road that used to be the home of a lumber mill from the 1940s until around 2009. What are now 4 blighted buildings, formerly used to process local timber. Dansons planned rehabilitation of the site includes using the 4 buildings as follows.
- 32,645 square feet for warehousing
- 18,141 square feet for warehousing
- 12,496 square feet for production
- 4,482 square feet for warehousing
The site is conveniently located right next to a local wood product manufacturing company that Dansons agreed to repurpose their timber waste to use for wood pellet product.
What seemed to an ideal site for Dansons, hasn’t turned out to be. It turns out they were unaware of significant issues with the lot at the time of purchase and only found out about them during the process of annexations and zone change. A letter dated June 10th from the Director of the Oregon Department of Transportation regarding the site describes it best.
Transportation infrastructure along both frontages of the corner lot that is not appropriate for Urban Industrial use and traffic, lack of public utilities on the site, and a superfund designation stemming from a historic lack of environmentally safe practices by the former mill. The substantial costs required to mitigate all of these deficiencies have combined to render the site vacant and unmaintained for more than a decade leading to blight that is visible from the roadway and casts a cloud on adjacent undeveloped industrial lands.Kris Strickler, Director, Oregon Department of Transportation
Poor transportation infrastructure, no public utilities and a superfund site are pretty large obstacles to overcome for any development. Thankfully, the story hasn’t ended with the project being abandoned. It appears that the City of Molalla and the state of Oregon has been working with Dansons to rehabilitate the site. They awarded Dansons a $248,000 grant to aid in the transportation system improvements or 50% of the project and Dansons has pledged to maintain a minimum of 30 traded sector jobs in return.
The soil at the site has become contaminated with dioxins associated with historical wood preservation operations. As a result, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) analyzed Dansons’ proposed use of the site and determined that the redevelopment won’t contribute to or exacerbate existing contamination. Dansons and the DEQ have entered into a cleanup and productive reuse agreement, date August 28, 2020.
From the efforts of the state and local government and Dansons, it appears that the project is progressing. The last update that we can find is from a March 2022 project update that showed infrastructure improvements were 90% complete. We look forward to the project being completed for the residents of Mulalla, OR and for Dansons.