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August 3 — Marcola Meadows Development: Successes and Lessons Learned

 

It’s a remarkable development story. How can a property with a history of failed developments be designed and constructed in the middle of a global pandemic and in the face of significant challenges for fires in the forests? According to Karl Ivanov, the principal developer, and Andy Limbird, the land use planner for the City of Springfield, it depends on trust and flexibility. The City Club program on August 3 was an opportunity to see how this success happened. To view the full program on You Tube, click here: Marcola Meadows

In the center of Springfield sits a 100-acre parcel that had sat unutilized for decades while the owner waited to find the right development opportunity. In 2006 it seemed that the proposal had arrived – a mixed used development anchor by a large retail store. A master plan for that development was approved in 2008, but the collapse of the housing bubble that year doomed the proposal, and the property became bank owned.

In 2012 there seemed to be renewed hope: a proposal to site a federal medical facility surfaced and was vigorously pursued by the City. That proposal did not materialize however, and the property remained dormant, until 2018 when the property was purchased by a new development group.

As anyone who develops in Oregon knows, the state and local development process is complex, and often challenging. The property remained under the original master plan approved in 2008, but the new group had a much different vision for the property – a vision that contemplated much more residential use, and public uses such as a school and a church, with relatively little commercial uses. That makes it even more intriguing that the group purchased the property “as is” with none of the entitlements that it would need to modify the master plan, the land use designations, and the zoning to accomplish their objectives. The process generally moves rather slowly; thus it is no surprise that much work needed to be done on getting the changes needed to make development possible when, in March 2020, the City in essence shut down because of the COVID pandemic. What is a surprise to many is that in the face of that, with City staff working remotely, the developer and the City process over 14 significant land use actions over the next two years.

Equally surprising is that today the group has started or completed 226 single family homes, continues to build at the rate of over six homes per month, is almost a year ahead of schedule and within its planned budget. None of this overlooks that fact that there were real challenges to getting the project underway, including wetlands issues and storm drainage challenges arising from the reality that the land in the development is very flat and does not allow significant infiltration.

That same feature complicated sanitary sewer construction, leading to situations where some wastewater pipes have minimal cover under the streets. Both Mr. Limbird and Mr. Ivanov were very clear that success depended on something that is not too common in develop0emnt – mutual trust between the developer and the governing jurisdiction. Mr. Ivanov, the president and founder of I&E construction, said that his experience in developing projects on a national scale and the staff’s willingness to work with him enabled them to make development decisions “on the fly” without long time intervals for processing. Both Chris Goodell and Monty Hurley, principals in AKS Engineering came to the same conclusion – everyone needed to be able to think outside of the box and come up with solutions which minimized the need for long drawn out reviews. He emphasized how the first phase of residential construction was built under the existing master plan while at the same time the parties were processing plan amendments to adjust for subsequent phases.

Responding to questions, Mr. Ivanov agreed that there have been some challenges dealing with parking issues in the constructed part of the development. He said that much of that can be attributed to so many tradesmen being on the site and that problems should ease once construction is completed next year.

In response to another question h=e said that all the multi-family construction (which will include 312 apartment units), will be all electric, while natural gas can be available in the single-family homes

 

August 17: Springfield Economic Development Update

Springfield has completed the land assembly process for new development in the riverfront area of Glenwood, according to Economic Development Manager, Allie Camp. In combination with private and public sector partners, the group now controls about 30 acres in the northeast corner of Glenwood and has begun the Master Planning process which will give increased definition to the goals set out in the Glenwood Refinement Plan, she said. That process is expected to take about 18 months. Glenwood, which is an urban renewal area, and the Downtown Urban Renewal Area, which extends to 23rd Street, are the two focus areas for near term economic development. To see the slide presentation at the August 17 City Club, click: Slides. To view the entire program on You Tube, click: August 17 presentation.

Longer term areas of interest include both the North Gateway area, and the region south of 298th Street near the Springfield Mill Race, which were recently brought within the Urban Growth Boundary. Those areas, however, require additional planning work before they can be available for future development. Those efforts are important, however, she said, since at present the City has very few large areas of commercial or industrial buildable land. Right now, she added, most commercial or industrial buildable land is concentrated in very small parcels.

One unfortunate development is the decision to revisit the proposed Blue McKenzie development, which the Springfield Economic Development Agency decided, in June, will not move forward as previously envisioned. SEDA will continue to search for suitable opportunities to bring more housing to downtown. Most of the area of the Downtown Urban Renewal Plan is zoned community commercial, is a very flexible zoning standard. Thus, she said, while other factors may exist to keep property owners from moving to develp0, the question of zoning is not one.

In Glenwood, while not within the master plan area, phase II of the Franklin Boulevard project, which proposes improvements to that street from the west of the current improvements in the direction of the City limits, has reach the 60 percent design level and now awaits efforts to secure additional funding to move it toward completion of design and construction. In response to a question, she said that the residential area of Glenwood, south of Franklin Boulevard, is not part of current development efforts. She reported that the Glenwood Transfer Station is the subject of discussion at the Lane County Board of Commissioners, and that the City is following those discussions closely to see how any action might enhance further Glenwood development.

Describing the City’s economic development program in general, Ms. Camp pointed to three areas. One important aspect of the program is the legislative effort led by Sam Kelly-Quattrocchi, the City’s Legislative and Economic Development Analyst. The aspect addresses both State and federal legislative efforts to secure additional funding for activities which support economic development.

 

Vahana Horn is the Economic Development Officer and the Property Manager for the City of Springfield. Her economic lens is focused on local and small business, with her concentration area being on the ever-changing landscape of Downtown Springfield. She maintains coinciding Discover Downtown Springfield websites and Facebook pages and leads quarterly business meetups.

The financial engine that drives economic development in the Glenwood and Downtown areas is the ability to use tax increment financing to support development. In both urban renewal areas the tax base was frozen at the time of creation of the urban renewal district and any additional property tax revenue generated is available to SEDA to support economic development activities. The two major uses of that funding are to support debt service which allows the agency to raise capital funds and the use of the tax increment revenue to pay for local systems development charges imposed by the City in the urban renewal areas to reduce the cost of development.

 

July 6: Come Explore Lane County

The travel and hospitality industry, long a major economic engine in Lane County, has made a substantial rebound as it emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Andy Vobora, Vice-President for Stakeholder Relations of Travel Lane County. In Fiscal 2020, which ended just as the pandemic exploded, the industry generated about $1 billion. While, he said, it took about a 60 percent hit during the pandemic, it is now emerging, in many cases more quickly than in other areas.

That does not mean the future is free from challenges, he added. Hotels suffered perhaps the most from the shutdown. As they begin to return, visitors will find rates have grown markedly. In addition. The room supply has sharply declined with the loss of the Valley River Inn due to fire, and decisions by Lane County to purchase some facilities, such as the former Red Lion hotel, to provide shelter for homeless residents.

In addition, the industry must deal with the typical winter trough when there are marked reductions in visitors, both in the sports area, as well as tourism in general. Travel Lane County has long supported developing a winter demand generator, such as an indoor facility that could host sporting events to help alleviate that trough as well as serve as a conference center. However, it had been anticipated that a significant portion of the Transient Lodging tax collected by Lane County would go to help support debt service on such a facility. Now, with the County considering whether to divert a significant portion to a new outdoor stadium, that revenue source might not be available for some time.

Travel Lane County uses a wide variety of approaches to try to support the industry. Most of this work is not visible to local residents, because it is directed at attracting visitors from other areas. This includes things like aggressively marketing Lane County and its offerings in the San Fracisco Bay area and other locations where they data they collect suggests that residents there could be interested in traveling to Oregon.

The organization does, however, work to create supportive programs in the area. One example Mr. Vobora pointed to is based on the realization that travelers with disabilities often have significant discretionary income, but need to find destinations that can accommodate them. One local example of that support is a grant program created by Travel Lane County which will support installation of hearing aid loops at the front desks of local hotels.  The agency can fund 80 percent of that cost for an effort that has major implications for travelers with hearing challenges. Travel Lane County is also active in trying to develop uniform access information on handicapped access to trails and other facilities so that visitors can make their own determinations on what they can attempt.

In a similar fashion, the organization is working with groups in the Dexter Lake area to improve infrastructure for an internationally recognized rowing venue to stimulate even further growth. Before the pandemic hit, they were working to create information to help visitors connect that multiple bikeways in the area so that it would be easier to travel on more of them. Now that the pandemic has eased, Mr. Vobora expects that effort will be reactivated.

While the University of Oregon has a substantial program in attracting and supporting athletic events, Travel Lane County is also active in helping to support other sports, like the rowing program and volleyball programs, including a national BMX tournament.

To watch the entire presentation, please click on this link: Travel Lane County Program.

June 1: Willamalane Comprehensive Plan Update

After several months of staff work and extensive public outreach, the staff of Willamalane Park and Recreation District has completed a draft update to the agency’s Comprehensive Plan.

The Plan will be released for public comment on June 19 and, following the one-month comment period, will be prepared for submission to the Willamalane Board for consideration in September. On June 1, Kristina Boe, Senior Planner for Willamalane, and Michael Wargo, the agency’s Executive Director, reviewed the preparation of the draft plan with members of

 Springfield City Club. The public may view the draft plan at www.willamalane.org/future. The draft plan includes a list of projects that the agency would hope to accomplish in the future, along with a map identifying the project locations. There will be an opportunity to submit comments during the public review period.

The goal of the plan update is to position the agency to meet its defined goals for the next decade. 

Ms. Boe described in some detail the extensive outreach that has already occurred, including surveys, focus groups and direct outreach to many segments of the community. In that process, she said, the staff learned that people prioritize maintenance and safety in both facilities and neutral areas. She noted that among other things, the amount of natural area managed by Willamalane has grown markedly from about 100 acres at the time the plan was last updated in 2012 to over 700 acres today.

An important concern that the staff investigated was the existence of barriers to use of both facilities and trails. Their work disclosed that while about 25 percent of the district area has adequate service, 55 percent has a somewhat lower level of service and about 20 percent has little or no service. The draft maps show barriers to residents reaching service (like roadways and other barriers) so that as projects are developed and considered the agency can focus on removing or reducing those barriers. In particular, she noted the study disclosed that central Springfield has little access to trails, especially soft surface trails. 

The draft also documents a need for closing a gap in service to adults and seniors. She said the agency must adapt to the changing nature of the demographics of the community, both in terms of an aging population and those areas where language barriers to service exist.

Staff work identified that there are now some areas of the Springfield community where expansion has occurred and created places which are outside the Willamalane district boundaries. Mr. Wargo noted that expansion of the district’s boundaries to address that might occur, but doing so will only exacerbate the challenges of providing adequate staffing and other resources.

Ms. Boe said that once the Board of Directors approves the Plan, it must be submitted to both the City of Springfield and to the Lane County Board of Commissioners for approval so that it becomes an official part of the approved long term land use plans for the area.

To view the Facebook feed of the program, click on this link: Willamalane Plan Update

May 18: Public Works Week

Ben Gibson, Springfield Surface Operations Manager with the Operations Division will talk about what PW maintenance is all about and also the various programs that are part of Springfield Operations. He will also talk about the City’s apprenticeship program and how it operates with all the training involved.

Ben Gibson

Ben has been a public employee for the past 23 years.  His career began with the City of Eugene working at the Metropolitan Wastewater Treatment Plant while attending school.  He then joined the City of Springfield as a Maintenance Technician Apprentice.  Over the course of 3 years, Ben graduated to Journeyman level and spent the next 4 years performing various tasks such as Emergency Response, Street maintenance and preservation, and sanitary sewer collection system rehabilitation inspections.  Ben’s career progressed to construction inspection with Springfield’s Engineering Division and for the past 6 years has as an Operations Division Supervisor.  Ben was born in Chehalis Washington and moved to Oregon in 1989 and is proud to be a Springfield resident. Ben has 3 wonderful children, he is a former high school football coach, currently his sons little league baseball coach, volunteers as a private security guard, and is one of the newest members of Springfield Twin Rivers Rotary.

April 27: Willamalane Board elections

The City Club of Springfield hosted a candidate forum for the upcoming election of three at-large positions on the Willamalane Park and Recreation district’s board. The candidates for the May election include: incumbent Board President Chris Wig, incumbent Director Greg James, incumbent Director Dr. Johnny Lake, and non-incumbent candidates CJ Mann, Kiersten L. Muenchinger, and Angela Miceli Stout.

Springfield City Club moderated the forum and offered each candidate an opportunity to share their ideas and positions. Each candidate was given an opportunity to submit a statement describing their candidacy. Those statements may be reviewed here: CANDIDATE STATEMENTS. The event took place on April 27 at the Springfield Chamber from 12-1 p.m. View the video by clicking on the link: VIEW FORUM

May 4: Springfield School Board Elections

Two positions are up for election to the Springfield School Board on May 16. Four candidates filed for election to Position 1: Geena Davis, Ken Kohl, Violet Olszyk and Heather Quaas-Annsa. We understand that Ms. Davis and Ms. Quaas-Annsa have withdrawn. Nicole DeGraff and Anthony Reed have filed for Position 4. Springfield City Club invited all candidates to a forum that was held at Noon on May 4 to give the candidates an opportunity to speak to the voters and answer questions. You m ay view thevid3eo of the forum on the City Club
Facebook page at this link: SCHOOL BOARD FORUM.

April 20: LCC Board Elections

The Board of Education for Lane Community College will elect members at the May election. While the Springfield seat is not up for election, three seats are contested. Kevin Alltucker and Bob Baldwin will be seeking to be elected to seat 7. In addition, Lisa Fragala and Kyle Reallon will be seeking election to District 6 and Rich Cunningham, Nick Skelton and Zach Mulholland will be seeking election from District 2. While candidates run from specific districts, all seats are voted on at large. City Club hosted a candidate forum and invited all candidates who filed.

Four of the candidates agreed to participate in the forum: Mr. Alltucker, Mr. Baldwin, Ms. Fragala and Mr. Skelton. Each of the candidates submitted brief statements describing their candidacy. The statements may be found here: CANDIDATE STATEMENTS, A complete recording of the forum is found on the City Club Facebook page: APRIL 20 FORUM.

April 6: Lane County Public Safety Levy

Disclaimer: This article reflects only the views of the author. It does not reflect the views of either of the participants in the forum or of the Springfield City Club.

On April 6, Sheriff Cliff Harrold, and Mr. Jacob Trewe, of Healing not Handcuffs, discussed renewal of the Lane County Public Safety Levy, a measure that will appear on the May 16 ballot. Sheriff Harrold urged support of the levy renewal and Mr. Trewe urged that renewal be rejected. The levy renewal will be at the same rate as is currently imposed, meaning that there will be no increase in taxes on any property as a result of approval.

Perhaps the most fascinating part of the discussion was how much Sheriff Harrold and Mr. Trewe agreed on the ultimate solution to dealing with one of the major public safety issues facing Lane County. Each agreed that incarceration was not the preferred approach, but rather solutions which created motivations and opportunities to avoid engaging in criminal behavior instead of imprisoning those who commit those crimes. Each suggested restorative justice approaches, improved mental health support, addressing the issue of chronic homelessness, providing ways for individuals to avoid getting caught in the cycle of addiction, and the like.

View the full program either on the City Club Facebook page or by downloading the Zoom recording (Caution, the Zoom recording is almost 900 MB of data.) 

Sheriff Harrold saw the levy renewal as important because without the levy, he believes he would be forced to eliminate the limited amount of those services he can now provide because they do not fall within the narrow ambit of his statutory duty to maintain and operate a jail and arrest alleged offenders. He said he would be obliged to repurpose the general fund money he receives to fund those programs to fulfill the essential statutory duties.

Mr. Trewe suggested that if the levy were to be rejected, the Sheriff’s office could still maintain a limited scale of the Department’s statutory duties and still offer programs which are now funded out of the county general fund.

Both agreed that ultimately the need is to have a conversation with the community and develop a revenue source that can fund a full set of alternative programs designed to avoid incarceration.

The challenge with that approach is best explained by referring to a question posed by someone who attended the forum over Zoom. This individual asked why they, as a Springfield resident, are obliged to pay a tax levied to fund the Springfield jail, as an employee working in Eugene, to pay the Eugene Public safety Tax, and at the same time pay “this third tax” to pay for the Sheriff’s functions. The individual suggested that this tax burden was too great. Focusing on the tax burden, rather than on the need to accomplish the goals of reducing criminal activity, often leads to one conclusion – opposition to any form of taxation, regardless of its purpose.

March 16: Representative Val Hoyle

Representative Val Hoyle was clear about her priorities as a new member of Congress from the 4th Congressional District: the Coos Bay North Bend container port. In her first visit to the Springfield City Club since her election, she described that project as her “first, second and third priority.” Fortunately, she has positioned herself in the Congress to be a strong advocate for the project. Even though one of the many freshman members of the House, she managed to secure an appointment to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where her predecessor served for many years. It is unusual, she said, for a new member of the House to get such a prestigious committee assignment.

Already, she has spent significant time working on building support for the project. She has been aided by the fact that the private company who would build the project, which involves dredging the Coos Bay channel, building the port, and expanding and improving rail service, is located in the Congressional District of the Republican chair of the Committee. This gives her an opportunity to build bipartisan support for the project.

Even with this project, which she says will create 9000 jobs on the coast as her main focus, she is working to establish a reputation as a congress member who will be willing to work across the aisle when appropriate, by securing support for two amendments to pending legislation which passed with unanimous support. Her focus, she said, “is finding ways to work together with people who want to get things done.”

She was clear, however, that there are significant challenges to working in the present Congress. She reported that while that chair of the transportation committee was clear that he wants the committee to “be boring” and focus on getting work down, her other committee assignment, to Natural Resources, will apparently operate differently. The first meeting of the Committee she said, focused on whether the members could bring guns to the meetings.

One of the first pieces of legislation she has signed on to sponsor is a modification to Social Security which would require high income individuals to resume contributions to the system if they make more than $250,000 a year. (At present no contributions are required on earnings above $160,000.) Were it to pass, which she concedes is doubtful in this Congress, it would stabilize social Security for 75 years as well as support a $250 a month increase in benefits across the board. This is important for this District she said, since over half of the seniors in the district rely on social Security for their retirement income.

Another bill she mentioned is one that tracks her recent experience as State Commissioner o9f the Bureau of Labor and Industries. That bill would offer tax credits to employers who are creative in how they hire and train employees. She focused attention on the apprenticeship model and the successful efforts in Oregon to create certifications in skills that do not require a four-year college degree. She specifically mentioned several of the programs that Lane Community College offers in medical technology, nursing, and traditional trades fields as examples of the sorts of programs that could be developed. It is important she said, “to change the present model where schools are paid for getting butts in the seats” and replace it with models that focus on rewarding successful outcomes.

Asked about the likelihood of success in getting approvals for the Container port project, she pointed to the fact that the current West Coast shipping ports are generally land locked and cannot expand significantly, and that all of them require days to get products from the open ocean to the port facility. “Coos Bay would be 90 minutes from open ocean to port with direct rail connections that could cut as much a s two days off of the supply chain.” She said there was no organized opposition, either in the Congress or locally to the project, unlike the controversial Jordan Cove project, although she acknowledged that work needs to be done to reassure local communities and the fishing industry that the part of the proposal that calls for offshore wind generation of electricity can be accomplished with adverse environmental effects.

Not only would the port project generate jobs by itself, she said, but it would provide an essential stimulation to the housing market. There are simply no homes available, at any level, along the coast. The need to supply housing for up to 9000 new workers would be a massive stimulus to build housing.

Rep. Hoyle was not optimistic about parts of the President’s budget which offer subsidies to help increase pay for child care workers. Unfortunately, she said, the slim Republican majority, and the decision of the speaker to yield much of his power to the extremist element of the Republican Party, make ideas like this, just like the demand for an assault weapons ban, things that are not likely to see success in this Congress.

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