Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Council Policy Agenda Town Hall, Planning Commission, Downtown Advisory Board Meet this Week

The City's hosting a Town Hall on Wednesday the 24th to solicit ideas for the 2019 Council Policy Agenda. On Tuesday and Thursday are a couple of other meetings to note.

Council's 2018 Policy Agenda
Our local 350.org chapter strongly suggests that we make a Climate Action Plan - to move beyond the "inventory" in the 2018 Agenda - the center for 2019.
Come to this town hall meeting to tell our City Council that we need to stay on track with a Climate Action Plan for Salem. Salem is one of the only major cities in Oregon without one. Development of a Climate Action Plan needs to be funded in the next City budget for 2019-20.
That would be a fine center. Other goals like Safe Routes to Schools, better bike lanes, improved transit, more housing in the city center all fall easily under the umbrella of a Climate Action Plan and follow naturally from it.

The Town Hall's at Broadway Commons, 1300 Broadway St NE, at 6pm on Wednesday the 24th.

Broadway Commons and Coffeehouse - via CB|Two
Tuesday the 23rd, Tonight - Planning Commission on Code Update
On October 23, the Planning Commission will hold its first work session on a package of proposed changes to the City's zoning and development code known as the Unified Development Code.

The proposed changes address issues that have arisen since the last update in 2016. They include minor housekeeping amendments as well as policy-related changes that respond to concerns from the community and changes in State law.

The work session on October 23 will focus on a number of the proposed changes, including the following:
  • Streamlining the Neighborhood Plan adoption process
  • Clarifying the relationship of historic design review to other design review
  • Allowing the growing of recreational marijuana in the Commercial General zone
  • Clarifying setbacks abutting Interstate 5 and property outside of city limits
The work session will be at 5:30 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall, 555 Liberty Street SE. The public is invited to attend. Other proposed changes will be discussed at a future Planning Commission work session.
The proposed language has lots of strike-out, and based on a quick read, the "streamlining" of neighborhood plans might also be a weakening of them, and the proposal deserves a close look.

There is no Staff Report with additional explanation or analysis, and the language on historic design review is murky, and it looks like a weakening of design standards also.

There might be good reasons for these, but they are not obvious, and in the absence of a  Staff Report it's hard to have an opinion.

Downtown Advisory Board on Thursday

Almost a "painted lady"!
The Gray Block with new paint and de-bricked (last week)

Before: Awning and brick applique removed (2012)
The Downtown Advisory Board meets on Thursday at noon, and they'll be taking a tour of the Gray Block and its renovation. They opened up the first floor storefront, took out the heavy awning and fake masonry, and reverted more generally to an early 20th century look. Hopefully also the second floor housing is moving forward.

There's also an interesting note about amending the Riverfront-Downtown Urban Renewal Plan to accommodate a future expansion of the Conference Center.

If Urban Renewal funds get diverted from downtown transportation and housing to subsidize more Conference Center, that could be unhelpful! The City owes the citizenry a detailed accounting of the subsidies for the Conference Center and what its return on investment has been.

By contrast, an amendment in support of a Farmer's Market could be helpful:
To participate and encourage food and beverage related development, including Farmer’s Market, to support livability and economic vibrancy.
The specific project language would be:
Projects that support food related businesses and development, including a public market, community space, acquisition, new construction, building remodel, grants, food incubator, grocery or supermarket center.
Food and serving residents is more valuable than meeting space for out-of-towners, right?

As this moves along it will go before the full Urban Renewal Agency (composed of City Council members) and there will be a Staff Report. There will likely be more to say then also.

The Downtown Advisory Board meets Thursday the 25th, from 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm in the Urban Development Conference Room, 350 Commercial St NE, underneath the Chemeketa Parkade.

Addendum, October 24th

Over on FB, a person says that the financials for the Conference Center are available on the City's website, and tartly says "do more research."

Well, the financials are published in a way that is difficult to find, and they are written in language inscrutable to non-specialists.

Here are two excerpts from previous years, which appear to show a loss.

A loss in 2012

A loss in 2015
More recently this spring, Council had to deliver a "one time" infusion of $350,000 to cover some unspecified screw up.

Someone with expertise in accounting should audit these. The City has said over and over that the Conference Center operates in the black, but it is not clear how this is so.

It may be that the Conference Center is a good investment, but that case has only been asserted in the most general of terms, not something ever proved.

1 comment:

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Updated with evidence that the Conference Center operates with losses.