Last night I attended the second in a series of neighborhood meetings in Troutdale to discuss our proposed urban renewal project. The turnout was smaller than last Thursday's meeting.
Here are my thoughts on some of the issues raised by Troutdale residents at these meetings so far. First,I want to reiterate that I will only support urban renewal in Troutdale if it is approved by the voters. If there is sufficient vocal and /or written public opposition to the proposed urban renewal plan at the public meetings, I will reconsider even voting in favor of having the urban renewal proposal go to voters at all.
The fact is this: The Troutdale urban renewal project proposal has advanced this far on a series of 4-3 city council votes. I'm the swing vote. A May 2006 election on a proposed urban renewal district in Troutdale is not a for sure thing.
Okay, here are some of the questions, and my thoughts:
1) Why doesn't the city just disassociate from working with the two other owners of land in the proposed urban renewal district, Eastwind Development, LLC (part of the Yoshida Group)and the Chelsea group(owners of the Troutdale Outlet Mall)? Why not let them build whatever they want without any involvement from the city?
My thoughts: By negotiating with Yoshida and Chelsea via development agreements, we can have some control over what gets built in the urban renewal district. If we just let Chelsea and Yoshida develop on their own, we have no input or control. This is the best reason to work together with the other property owners- control of the end result.
2) What about potential ground pollution at the site? Who is responsible?
My thoughts: All property owners will have to pay for their own cleanup costs, if any. The city and Yoshida recently split the costs for an initial environmental impact study.
3) Urban renewal projects in Portland go on and on forever. Why should we approve an urban renewal district if Troutdale might do the same?
My thoughts: I agree this is a possibility. This is one of my main concerns. Chances are I won't be on the city council in 10-20 years and therefore will not be able to do anything if a future city council goes against the current city council's desire to close up shop on this urban renewal district at 10 years.
I want the window on the issuance of new bonds for the projects within this urban renewal district to end at ten years. I want the urban renewal district to be dissolved the second all the bonds are paid off for the urban renewal district. It's possible the bond repayment might take more than ten years.
4) Won't the tax increment financing take money away from Reynolds School District?
My thoughts: Regarding city staff's explanation that" financing of K-12 schools will see no impact because the state makes up the difference", I will paraphrase David Letterman's comment to Bill O"Reilly: "60% of this statement is crap".
The state's constitutional requirement of adequate and equitable funding for schools has been ignored by the state legislature for years. So in fact, the state doesn't make up losses from tax increment financing for any urban renewal project.
However, having said that, the extremely small size of the proposed urban renewal district will result in a negligible reduction, if any, of property taxes going to Reynolds. I don't think the city has done a sufficient job of explaining this.
5) "Yoshida and Chelsea are richer'n Croessus, and since they will be harvesting the lion's share of the benefit from the development, why don't they do it, fund it themselves, and leave us out of the mess?"
My thoughts : Speaking only for myself, I don't believe in free rides or the city subsidizing profits to private enterprise at the expense of Troutdale taxpayers. Also, as I mentioned before, by working with Chelsea/Yoshida we have some control over the final product. If we let them go it alone, we have no say in what they build.
Regarding increased property values as a result of urban renewal, I fully expect the city to negotiate a satisfactory deal with Chelsea and Yoshida so they help pay for infrastructure in direct relation to their increased property value made possible by the city's efforts. I won't accept anything less.
This isn't Portland. I'm not giving freebies to the good old boys and girls club. If Troutdale residents agree with me on this issue, I would urge them to contact the mayor and other city councilors so they are clear this is what you expect. Have your neighbors call, write or e-mail us also on this issue. It helps.
The City of Troutdale's address is 104 S. Kibling, Troutdale, 97060. The phone number is 503-665-5175, The city's fax number is 503-667-6403.
6) "The neighborhood citizenry, not downtown businesses, just plain 'folks', are the ones being asked to pay. Shouldn't they have a clearer idea presented to them of what "is in it for them"?
This is why I have fought hard since June 2005 for the neighborhood meetings on urban renewal.
If people come to these meetings and don't think the explanation is clear, they need to speak up. I have attended all of the neighborhood meetings held so far. Some people spoke up- good for them. Most didn't. But I applaud everyone who has attended for taking the time to get involved.
If you are not satisfied with an explanation you heard at a previous meeting, come to one of the upcoming public meetings so city staff can reply to your concerns. An alternative would be to e-mail or fax your questions addressed to the entire city council if you can't make a meeting. We will do our best to get you answers.