Saturday, April 11, 2015

City Council, April 13th - Goodwill and Marine Drive

Council meets on Monday, and I'm not sure there's anything super important on the agenda. Mostly it's things it seems worthwhile just to "register" and to see if they fall into larger patterns later.

Approximate location of Marine Drive in Red
Way down at the bottom of the agenda, the two "Councilor's Items" are most relevant here:

Councilor Lewis is impatient for progress on Marine Drive and moves
that City Council direct staff to bring back information related to the funding available for the design, right-of-way acquisition, and construction of Marine Drive NW....

I believe that it is important for the City Council to understand when the funds allocated [in the 2008 road bond] for Marine Drive NW will be expended and for what purpose.
Passenger Rail service is at risk
Councilor Andersen also asks for a formal City position for the Legislature supporting Amtrak Cascades service (remember, our MPO lined up voted against this in a split vote!).

Proposed Goodwill with First Street alignment in red
First Street there would be vacated
The other matter of real interest is the return of the Goodwill project. After initially denying it on March 9th, on the 23rd Council voted to reconsider and bring it back. Presumably they'll now set a date for a public hearing. The opposition to this is a little mysterious, though it may be helpful to read Council's action on this in tandem with Councilor Lewis' initiative on Marine Drive. Pro-Bridge forces don't want Good Will of any kind to interfere with a Third Bridge! (See here for more on the Goodwill project.)

Summary of Current Status
(proposed demolitions and park area added)
A report on the possibility of purchasing the northwest corner of the North Campus of the State Hospital for use as a park is both strongly positive and curiously non-committal:
Acquisition of a park parcel on the North Campus property would be contingent upon the scale and uses proposed for the site's redevelopment, and the ultimate need for a park on the parcel. Assuming a need is identified, two options for park development are possible on the property: a neighborhood park or a small community park. Both options would be eligible for Park System Development Charge·funding for acquisition, planning, and development....

If the property were to be developed with residential units, a neighborhood park would be needed. Acreage requirements for the park would be determined based on the residential density developed. If the property were to be developed into any use other than residential, the proposed property could serve the existing need for a community park, and would likely be developed as sports fields .[italics added]
I understood the request from Council as tentatively assuming a need has already been identified and as asking for confirmation and then further thoughts on how can we accomplish it. This report calls for more process and doesn't give an answer!

Other Stuff

There's an update on the Minto Bridge. Ground-breaking has already been announced for May 21st,  Friends of Two Bridges has said that the three bike racks are already sponsored and sold, but perhaps new is a schedule update:
  • Bridge footing work will begin in mid April and continue through May 2015 (wait! that means ground will already be broken by May 21st!)
  • Arch Ribs are anticipated to be set in August 2015.
  • Temporary work bridge construction will start and be completed in June 2015.
  • Substantial Completion for all work on the project is September 30, 2016.
There's an update on the Portland Road project, but nothing is new. (See here for a brief discussion of the memo being presented to Council.)

The legislative priorities and positions are always interesting. The only transportation-related one in this round regards license plate surveillance. The City opposes SB 639, which "would require all license plate reads obtained by an automatic license plate reader be destroyed within 24 hours unless a court order is obtained." 

A couple items on economic development are of a little interest. One report has some details new here - maybe we just haven't noticed before - about SEDCOR:
  • Enterprise Zone Activity - The City contracts the management of its enterprise zones to SEDCOR. According to their report for January 1, 2015, to March 31, 2015, two new Enterprise Zone applications were received. SEDCOR and the City continue to support applications valued at more than $2,000,000 in additional investment in equipment and building improvements. 
  • Large Lot Study - SEDCOR is working with economic development partners throughout the Portland metro area on a study to identify industrial properties that are 50 acres in size and larger. The study compares the competitiveness of these sites to other sites throughout the state. It also takes into account how these properties are positioned with respect to properties that are available nationally and internationally. The Mill Creek Corporate Center is identified as one of the top sites in the region that is development ready with sufficient infrastructure and access to Interstate 5. The comparative strengths of each area are considered and paired with the industries that align the most with the employment profiles for the respective area. The study suggests the top industries for the Salem area are specialized machinery, value-added agriculture, and distribution; with some competitive strengths for advanced electronics manufacturing.
The one on the Enterprise Zone seems vague! What were the two new applications? And as for the large lots, carbon and commute distance remain factors externalized in site analysis.

A second report identifies "priority infrastructure projects to support regionally significant economic development activities." In light of prospects for drought, the water main in particular deserves special attention. McGilchrist totally needs improvments, but it will also need checking to make sure it is not grossly overbuilt and that more than minimal facilities for people who walk and bike are included, especially as the Social Security Office and Veterans Affairs are located there - not to mention the nascent hub of brewing activity!
  • Intersection and corridor improvements at 25th Street SE and Madron a Ave SE and 22"a Street SE ($8,500,000) - identified in the recommended FY 15-16 through 19-20 CIP. Intersection requires significant improvements to accommodate major businesses in Southeast Salem, including Fairview Industrial Park and the Salem Airport.
  • Kuebler Boulevard SE improvements ($2,045,000) - identified in the recommended FY 15-16 through 19-20 CIP and in the 2012 CEDS and remains a high priority. Improvements required as the Mill Creek Corporate Center develops.
  • North-South Street. Mill Creek Corporate Center ($1,970,000) - identified in the recommended FY 15-16 through 19-20 CIP. New internal street required as development occurs in Phase IC and 2A of the Mill Creek Corporate Center.
  • Water main. Mill Creek Corporate Center ($840,000) - completes a secondary loop for sufficient water demand/fire flow for large development located in Phase lA and IC of the Mill Creek Corporate Center. (Separately, there's also a related information report on the reservoir site.)
  • Cordon/Gaffin intersection improvements ($576,000) - identified in the recommended FY 15-16 through 19-20 CIP and in the 2012 CEDS and remains a high priority. Improvements required as the Mill Creek Corporate Center and Salem Renewable Energy and Technology Center develop.
  • McGilchrist Street improvements ($20,000,000) - completes the arterial street improvements and realigns the 22"d Street intersection to improve business access and relieve flooding along the corridor. It was identified in the 2012 CEDS and remains a high priority.
Did you know that the Fairview Industrial Park has Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions? The Urban Renewal Agency proposes to ditch them:
In cases where the CC&Rs are still more restrictive than the current code those requirements may no longer be reasonable, given the type of buildings being constructed (more commercial uses) and the site design (buildings setback from the street). The most recent buildings that have been developed within the Industrial Park have requested exceptions from the CC&Rs.
The note about setbacks is interesting. Is it possible that at one time the development was envisioned as something less auto-centric and more walkable? It will be interesting to learn more about this - and perhaps more about a missed opportunity here.

Here's an interesting shuffle:
The Urban Renewal Agency desires to execute the attached IGA [intergovernmental agreement] for a short-term loan [from the City of Salem] in the maximum amount of $6,325,000, on or before April 24, 2015, and repay the loan plus interest by April 30, 2015. 
Why would the URA want $6M for a week? Seems odd! I guess the URA will have the tax increment receipts for repayment by the 30th?

There are two "Reimbursement Districts" proposed for formation. In these, developers fund and construct infrastructure for water, sewer, or traffic (maybe others, too), and reimbursement districts then are formed with adjacent properties that also benefit from the infrastructure investment. System Development Charges from these adjacent properties then are used to reimburse the developer who actually built the thing. As a part of the system that generally is involved in what Strong Towns calls the "suburban growth ponzi scheme," these almost certainly deserve a closer look. They don't seem like things that can possibly be self-supporting and instead look to require great subsidy from the City and from current residents. But that look will have to be for another time. Maybe you will know more?
Our new Interim Director of Urban Development Shows off
New Pedestrian Safety Signs
Finally, as the City looks for a new City Manager, it is also looking for a new Director for Urban Development. Retired Director Rick Scott had been serving on an interim basis, but it looks like the City was taking too long! Or perhaps they deferred it so a new City Manager could make their own hire. In any case, from Public Works Mark Becktel is sliding over to run Urban Development on an interim basis. (So here's a bit of roasting with our new "watch out for cars" pedestrian safety signage.)

And I don't think this matters, but it is interesting that even City Staff sometimes confuse the City of Salem with the Urban Renewal Agency. Normally it doesn't matter - here we routinely collapse the distinction - but for legal documents the contracting corporate entity is totally relevant!

Update, Monday

This is nice to see. Possibly the most obscure portion of the Council agenda is on the front page in the Council preview article today.

Most of the article talks about the "reimbursement districts" and it is striking how rational, at least in theory, they seem to be.
"In Salem, we have laws that say if you benefit from infrastructure that was put in by others, you need to reimburse them," said Peter Fernandez, the city's Public Works director.

Current property owners and residents in the district do not need to pay, Fernandez said. Only future developers who benefit from the facilities would need to pay the reimbursement fees.

When the council addressed similar issues in the past, there was reportedly confusion among residents who thought they might have to pay the reimbursement because they already own property within the district.

"Nobody that is there now owes any money," Fernandez said.
So the big question is, why don't we apply this logic to the Third Bridge?

Only future developers who benefit from the facilities would need to pay the reimbursement fees.

Who would argue with that approach?

Since the current bridges are adequate - even if people sometimes get cranky about them - then it is reasonable to ask future development to fund the bridge, since if that development doesn't happen, according to our travel models, no new facility would be needed. Only new development would trigger the "need" for a facility, and it seems fair to ask that new development fund the facility.

Super straight-forward, right?

Unfortunately, I bet the City calculates a higher reimbursement rate when the district is repaying another developer than when SDCs are simply going back to the City. Developers would seek to be "made whole" where the City would accept losses and thereby furnish indirect subsidies.

The whole SDC system deserves a much closer look. That's beyond our scope here, but maybe someone else would be inspired?


Susann Kaltwasser said...

The staff report on a possible park on the North Campus is biased towards saying that you can get your park only if there is housing at that site!

The City wants to have the Legilature take $8.2 million of our precious tax dollars to destroy usable buildings. NESCA got some members of the community to accept the idea, but other neighbors are furious. Lots of back room wheeling and dealing going on, I am told.

Even Rep Brian Clem who should be on the neighbor's side seems to be trying to work a deal where part of the land goes to the City for a Park, the Dome building gets sold off to some developers like the McMinnimans but the rest goes to the wrecking ball. This would make the Mayor happy for sure, but would it be the best thing for the area and for the community as a whole?

I think that the demolition is premature. DAS at one point said that the buildings (except maybe one) were viable for re-use. Then the power brokers got to them and made them change their tune.

If people don't step up and stop this foolishness, we may have another Blind School debacle on our hands.

What is the rush to destroy Salem's past. Other communities have turned their old mental hospitals and other public buildings into profitable uses. Given a chance I think we can too.

If interested contact the Ways and Means Subcommittee co-chairs(Representative Smith and Senator Steiner Hayward) on the DAS budget and tell them to save taxpayers $8 million and put the project out for an RFP again.

Anonymous said...

You write: "remember, our MPO lined up against this!)"

With the link providing some details: "the “Amtrak Cascades Service” proposal (three in support, three not supporting, one abstention)."

"lined up" implies opposition that is over 50 percent. Three to three seems more like "our MPO split on this subject".

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Updated with more on reimbursement districts.


@ Susann, So you read this as part of the effort to gain higher residential density at the site by trying to leverage or horse-trade the park?

I'm not sure if I entirely buy that: the report says that with more homes, a "neighborhood" park could be developed. But that may not include the sports fields.

The report also says that if there is more commercial or other non-residential uses, then a "community" park with sports fields might be developed.

So if the neighborhood's interest principally is for sports fields, the report does not appear to try to leverage higher-density housing for sports fields. Instead, according to the report, it would be more non-residential development that would be more likely to trigger park development as sports fields.

I find it more benign and non-committal. At least that's how I read it at the moment. (But things could change!)

@ Anon, Don't like "lined up"? Fair enough. The thing about the "split vote" is it did effectively mean as a body the MPO did not support Amtrak. So the dissenters did pull the others along with them.