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06/02/2014 City Council special meeting

From chickens to code to water, the city council covered a lot of territory during a June 2 special meeting.

ARCH BRIDGE

The meeting opened with two presentations from sixth-grade students from Rosemont Ridge Middle School students about their Arch Bridge master planning projects.

For a month the students studied urban planning and incorporated the Arch Bridge master planning the city has been working on. All sixth-graders gave their presentations earlier in the day in front of elected officials, city staff and volunteers.

“This is how we imagine our future of West Linn,” one group recited together at the end of their speech.

The students looked at transportation, open spaces, the history of West Linn, increased housing options, the environment, trails and paths and even economic development.

 “I would also share your vision,” Councilor Jenni Tan told presenters.

The students considered both needs and wants of residents and businesses in their projects.

“All of the groups and all the sixth-graders … were incredibly articulate,” Councilor Mike Jones said.

“There were so many talented presentations that covered so many things,” Councilor Thomas Frank said.

“I like that you covered all the aspects of planning,” Councilor Jody Carson said.

“A lot of what we are doing is for your generation,” Mayor John Kovash told the students.

REGULATORY STREAMLINING CODE AMENDMENTS

West Linn has been working to improve economic development in the city, from helping existing businesses to attracting new businesses. Part of this process has been taking a look at the city’s community development code (CDC).

The CDC contains a number of procedural and other regulatory provisions that have been shown to discourage development. In addition, many of these provisions have proven ineffective or contrary to promoting the types of development and uses the city would like to see.

On June 2, the city council approved changes to some of the regulations in the CDC that are known barriers to economic development. Changes include improvements in language and amendments to create great efficiencies and eliminate redundancies.

The amendments will make greater use of land, reduce excess parking requirements, encourage more flexible design and allow for more desirable amenities and uses.

The council held a public hearing May 12 and heard testimony regarding the amendments.

The amendments address regulatory inefficiencies, remove unnecessary regulatory barriers to business and create greater opportunities for economic development. These changes are expected to provide considerable short- and long-term savings for the city.

Carson made a motion to approve the first reading of the lengthy list of CDC amendments. Jones seconded the motion.

Carson thanked all the volunteers and the community who provided input during the review process.

“I think this is a good step in the right direction,” Jones said.

Frank read a prepared statement, calling for an economic development “SWAT team” to help build and grow business in West Linn and how the city must support both its residents and its businesses.

“We need to encourage business development, not hinder it,” he said.

“This has been a long-term council goal — economic development,” Tan said. “This has been a long process.”

The council then approved the second reading of the CDC amendments.

CHICKENS

Owning chickens is now legit in West Linn. However, roosters are still unwelcome.

The city has been allowing residents to host chickens for at least the last five years following an interpretation of the city’s CDC by a former planning director, treating chickens similarly to cats and dogs. However, legal counsel recently found that this interpretation was difficult to legally defend.

The new amendment to the CDC codifies the past practice of allowing egg-laying chickens. Residents will be allowed to have no more than five domestic chickens for each single-family residence. No roosters will be allowed. They must be kept in a secure enclosure at night and those enclosures must be at least 20 feet from neighboring residences.

Jones, who owns chickens, recused himself from this portion of the meeting.

Kovash expressed some concerns about the ordinance, including nuisance and possible nuisances.

“There are potential problems from noise to attracting rodents,” he said, adding that he hopes those who keep chickens continue to be “good neighbors.”

The amendment was approved unanimously.

PATHS AND TRAILS

The city council also weighted a recommendation by the planning commission to amend CDC Chapter 56 to require that all paths and trails that are to be longer than 200 feet be heard as part of a Class II Design Review process — complete with a public hearing and a decision by the planning commission. Currently, such trails are decided by the planning director through a Class I Design Review process.

The planning commission stated that potential impacts caused by trails longer than 200 feet warrant the additional discretion and public hearing that is afforded by the Class II process. While there is no public hearing under the current procedure, notice of the proposal is delivered to all properties within 300 feet of the proposed project and public comments are accepted and incorporated in the planning director’s decision. In addition, the planning director’s decision may be appealed to the city council.

Staff noted that changing the process is likely to considerably increase city expense with additional noticing, document preparation, submittal requirements, additional application fees, additional staff time and additional planning commission time.

The city’s parks and recreation advisory board had reviewed the planning commission’s recommendation and asked the council to not approve such a change without further vetting by the parks board and the community.

The city council held a public hearing May 12 on this issue and took public testimony.

Carson moved to retain the current process and it was seconded by Tan. The council voted to not accept the proposed amendment. Jones abstained.

LOT

The city council also heard a brief update of the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership project taking place in West Linn.

Mostly concrete and steel work is currently being done at the construction site of a new water treatment plant, which is located in the Robinwood neighborhood. The project includes rebuilding the water plant and installing a pipeline from Gladstone, through West Linn, to the plant and then into Lake Oswego and Tigard.

Upcoming activities include more concrete, more slabs and excavation of a pit for a future elevator.

Pipeline work crossing the Willamette River starts this summer. The council was warned this is a noisy activity, but LOT will be working with neighbors during this time of eight working days along the Mary S. Young Park side to drill 200 feet into soil. This process should finish by the end of this calendar year.

Carson asked about the vibrations from the pipeline installation. She was told vibration monitors will be installed at the site.

“We just can’t predict how that vibration will move through the ground,” Joel Komarek, LOT project director, said.

The project at the plant is currently 30 days behind schedule, but the pipeline project is still on track. The goal is to finish the plant and the pipeline before summer 2016. Repaving the neighboring roads will occur late in 2016.

“Getting water to citizens is big business,” Kovash said, adding that other cities are also addressing water issues.

WATER RATE INCREASE

The council also heard a recommendation from the city’s utility advisory board to hold a ballot measure to increase water rates 18 percent one time beyond the city’s 5 percent cap.

This recommendation came after the UAB reviewed the capital needs of the city’s water system and studied various water rate increase scenarios. As a result of a UAB meeting May 13, the board members voted in favor of recommending that the council select a ballot in the near future to place a water rate increase of 18 percent before the voters.

The UAB has been reviewing and discussing possible rate increase scenarios over the course of several months to provide a recommendation that will sufficiently fund system maintenance and operations in accordance with the adopted water system master plan. This recommendation also falls in line with 2014 City Council Goals.

Carson said it is too late in the year between now and November to put a measure on the ballot. Both Jones and Frank agreed that it was too late.

Jones commented that the city’s charter restricts rate increases to 5 percent and it really hampers the city’s ability to keep up with the related costs to providing services to residents.

“We really need to sell to residents why this is important,” Carson said.

Utility Advisory Board member Raymond Kindley told the council that the city’s water system needs to be a priority.

“If we can get it done sooner rather than later, we would really appreciate that,” Kindley said.

The issue will go to staff in a near work session to consider a ballot measure in early 2015. The city has studied the costs and needs for replacing aging pipelines as well as the 100-year-old Bolton Reservoir.

“The water system has been a top priority for a long time,” Kovash said. “We need to get those pipes fixed.”

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The next city council meeting will be June 9 at 6:30 p.m. You can find the agenda on the city’s website.