03/31/2014 City Council special meeting

Council denies White Oak Savanna grant application, looks at regulatory streamlining

The West Linn City Council met in a special meeting March 31 to discuss a resolution supporting a grant application for the White Oak Savanna and the regulatory streamlining project.

White Oak Savanna

The citizen group Neighbors for a Livable West Linn came to the city council during its last regular meeting, March 17, and requested during the public comment time that the city approve a resolution that supports a grant application for $250,000 from Oregon Parks and Recreation Department to put toward the purchase of 5.65 acres of property at 2445 Tannler Drive, which is adjacent to the White Oak Savanna park.

In 2009, the NLWL group garnered funds from the city of West Linn, the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation and Metro to purchase the 14 acres that is now the White Oak Savanna park. The group is currently working toward purchasing the 5.65 acres that abuts the park and fronts Salamo Road at the intersection of 10th Street.

The site is currently zoned for office/business center and residential-10. If the site is acquired, the property would need to be rezoned as residential and added to the city’s park system.

According to RKM Development Inc., the purchase price for the property is $1.72 million. Of that price, Metro has pledged $500,000, which leaves $1.22 million to be raised.

In a 3-2 vote, the council denied the resolution request the grant from OPRD,  with several councilors expressing concern about loss of potential revenue and future costs related to obtaining the property as a park.

If the city were to pursue the property as a park, regardless of zoning, all system development charges and street improvement requirements would be the city’s responsibility. Whereas if a private conservancy or developer purchased the property, that entity would be responsible for the costs. Estimated costs to develop the property as a park include $2 million for street improvements, $100,000 for a parking lot, trails and a play area, as well as $10,000 for the rezoning application – totaling $2.11 million.

However, if a private developer were to purchase the property and build a 60,000-square-foot office employing 200 people, the site could generate $319,378 annually in taxes, including $36,423 for the city and $160,127 for the West Linn-Wilsonville School District.

Along with the assumed future costs to the city, councilors expressed concern about the how the grant request process was presented to the city. Typically, when the city council votes on a property acquisitions there is a process to ensure the project is in compliance with the city’s land use plans, the city’s community development cost and that it is in the budget.

Though both councilors Mike Jones and Jenni Tan supported the resolution, Mayor John Kovash and councilors Jody Carson and Thomas Frank voted against approval.

Because the OPRD grant requires the city to submit the grant application and the deadline was April 4, the grant application will not be completed. However, that does not prevent NLWL from continue to fundraise in attempt to secure the site.

Franchise waiver

Oregon City recently adopted an ordinance requiring all utilities located under their streets to pay a fee to Oregon City.  For the city of West Linn, the fee will be $5,000 for a water transmission line that brings treated drinking water to West Linn.

West Linn will also be responsible for paying its share of the franchise fee that will be charged to the South Fork Water Board – approximately 40 percent of a fee that will be about $85,000 in fiscal year 2015 — and its share of the Tri-City Service District fee, which totals $191,000. In all, approximately $110,000 from West Linn will be paid to Oregon City.

The city council voted to send a letter to the City Commission of Oregon City requesting a waiver from the $5,000 fee.  The council also voted to have the West Linn members of the South Fork Water Board (Kovash, Jones and Carson) to request that the SFWB also send a letter to Oregon City requesting a waiver from the franchise fee.  The Board of Clackamas County Commissioners has already sent a similar letter to Oregon City on behalf of the Tri-City Service District.

Streamlining project

Also on the agenda was the regulatory streamlining project, which is geared toward updating the city’s codes and making processes smoother and quicker, thus promoting economic development and business activity. Adoption of these amendments is a city council priority for 2014.

Staff reviewed the proposed amendments to the code and explained the areas of agreement and disagreement between the planning commission and staff recommendations. Council pulled a few items from the suggested changes to discuss another time.

Some of the recommended code adjustments include more procedural items such as modifying language or definitions and other are more significant code changes.

One change under scrutiny is amending the city’s quasi-judicial appeals to be heard as “on the record” rather than “de novo” (anew). This change requires applicants to submit one application during the initial hearing, which then cannot be modified if a decision is appealed. An example of this is when the applicant changed its application during the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Treatment Plant process after the planning commission denied the initial application. Though staff is recommending the change, the planning commission wishes to keep the de novo process.

Other recommended changes include reduce the number of paper copies applicants must submit in order to save paper, no longer requiring permits for A-frame signs and making it legal for residents to own chickens.

The council is set to discuss some of the recommended changes further in depth at a future work session and is slated to vote on them during its regular May 12 meeting.