Friday, January 27, 2017

DLCD Withdraws from LUBA Appeal on Salem River Crossing - Updated

Here's a cryptic "whiskey tango foxtrot" for you.

Today the City issued a vaporous press release that is difficult to interpret more than in a very superficial way:
City of Salem and Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development Joint Statement

The City of Salem and the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) are pleased to announce that we have reached an understanding on the expansion to Salem’s Urban Growth Boundary and amendment to the Transportation System Plan. This understanding will support our mutual goals to provide transportation choices for people traveling to, through, and within Salem. A well-designed transportation network is vital for a healthy and vibrant community and provides street connectivity and transportation options to serve the needs of our City and region. This agreement will allow us to cooperatively pursue these goals.

The agreement is a result of dialog between the City and DLCD following the City’s decision in December approving an expansion of Salem’s Urban Growth Boundary and amendment to the Transportation System Plan, which allows the City to continue the planning process for a new bridge across the Willamette River. Once constructed, the crossing will provide another choice for people coming from or bound for west Salem, Polk County, and the coast.

In late December, DLCD filed a notice of intent to appeal the City’s decision. As a result, the City and DLCD came together to create greater understanding of the issues and identify areas of agreement. These meetings were facilitated by the Governor’s Office Mid-Valley Regional Solutions program, and included the Oregon Department of Transportation.

The City and DLCD agreed on a path forward and to work cooperatively on the issues of transportation choices raised in the appeal. As a result of this understanding, DLCD is withdrawing their appeal of the City’s decision.

We are committed to working together to further refine Salem’s progress in advancing transportation options in Salem and the region.
Does this mean that the Governor and ODOT pressured the DLCD to cave? That's an easy first reading, but perhaps it's wrong. The lack of detail here is concerning. Things like "areas of agreement" should be spelled out.

The rhetoric of "transportation options" is interesting, though. On the one hand the first "choice" mentioned is about trips to the coast. That's just another word for driving. The statement also talks about the bridge "once constructed," as if the City now had certainty.

But "transportation choice" has also meant walking, biking, and busing.

We should also remember the fight the City conducted with DLCD from 2002 to 2009 on "periodic review." The City did not cooperate and stonewalled. Finally DLCD caved.

So there are several reasons to be suspicious.

Today's statement is ambiguous and not at all useful for the public.  The statement looks like spin and balderdash more than substance.

As more detail comes out, this post may be updated.

Update - Here's the meat of the Memorandum of Understanding.

A. City obligations:
  1. Phasing. City shall adopt a policy that, for the first 10 years after the Record of Decision is issued, the City will only pursue design and construction of a first phase of the Project that includes only construction of one two-way span of the bridge, Marine Drive, and other surface transportation improvements, including pedestrian and bicycle facilities, required to support the first phase.
  2. City will include a congestion pricing model as part of the Project funding strategy development (A congestion pricing model need not include congestion pricing for the existing bridge facilities).
  3. City will pursue increased residential densities and mixed use development within the South Waterfront, Riverfront Downtown, and West Salem Urban Renewal Areas.
  4. City will actively work with the Salem Area Mass Transit District (SAMTD) to expand transit focusing on service between West Salem and the downtown transit center and improve ridership. The parties understand that SAMTD’s funding and operations are beyond the control of the City, and that this provision does not contemplate any City funding or direct operational assistance to SAMTD.
  5. City will commit to allocate a reasonable percentage (to be determined in the IGA referenced in Section D of this MOU) of the next transportation bond to develop and construct pedestrian and bicycle specific capital projects, and improvements that support SAMTD operations.
  6. Report on Transportation Choices
    1. On or before May 1, 2017, the City shall provide to the Department a report on actual performance in 2015 for the City’s adopted performance standards (benchmarks) for increasing transportation choices as set forth in the Salem Area Comprehensive Plan (Plan).
    2. If any 2015 benchmarks were not met, then by May 1, 2018, the City shall analyze why they were not met and then shall prepare and present to its City Council for adoption, in consultation with the Department, amendments to the Salem Transportation System Plan (TSP) that will enable City to meet future benchmarks. Alternatively, the City may, with approval from the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC), as provided in OAR 660-012-0035(5), replace the City’s existing benchmarks with new standards, that can be tracked consistently over time, that are consistent with the City’s and Department’s objectives to increase transportation choices.
  7. Traffic Projections/Effect of the Project on Transportation Choices/Reasonable Alternatives.
    1. On or before March 15, 2017, the City shall provide to Department an analysis, including citations identifying specific evidence contained in the Decision (such as the technical reports), that;
      1. Supports a finding that the travel projections used in the Decision assume reductions in vehicular travel demand and increases in mode share that equal or exceed the shifts that would result from meeting the benchmarks.
      2. Supports a finding that the proposed Salem River Crossing project enhances the City’s compliance with the benchmarks, that the project will not adversely impact vehicle miles travelled in Salem; and
      3. Supports a finding of compliance with OAR 660-24-0050(4).
    2. Upon receipt of the analysis identified in this section, City and Department agree to meet in person to discuss the findings and evidence identified by the City.
  8. Except as may be necessary to update the City’s benchmarks (Section 6.b), the City is not required to complete any amendments to the City’s adopted and acknowledged land use regulations resulting from this MOU or any subsequent IGA, until all appeals of the Decision have been exhausted, and the Decision is final.
Also included are a couple of "mutual obligations," including an
Intergovernmental Agreement. Within 90 days of execution of this MOU, the parties will execute an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) as authorized by ORS 190.110 refining and clarifying the obligations and commitments contained herein.
A(2) on "congestion pricing" is interesting, but most of the others don't seem all that strong, mostly just slightly emphasized things the City is already supposed to do. This seems like it might have been a missed opportunity for DLCD to extract some real concessions. This seems tepid still.

More thoughts later...


Anonymous said...

It is really sad and embarrassing that City of Salem staff don't recognize and embrace the opportunities they have under the Oregon land use system to make Salem a truly unique and exceptional place. Instead they choose to devote their talents, time and energy into keeping Salem mediocre. It doesn't appear that we are going to get much a change in culture with the new City Manager either.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Updated with bulk of MOU text. More thoughts later...

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Here are more thoughts on the terms of the agreement."