Q&A with Mayor Brian Hodson
The Canby City Council recently held its annual goal-setting work session and Mayor Brian Hodson says it went well. Canby Herald reporter Daniel Pearson sat down with Hodson on a recent sunny day to discuss the highlights of those meeting and what projects Canby citizens will see their local government focus on in the near and long term.
Daniel Pearson: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MAIN POINTS FROM THE MEETING?
Brian Hodson: The big things that came out of that work session that we will be focusing on include park and recreation development and maintenance. That's a big piece that will be a work session on its own. The park and rec board made a recommendation regarding a park maintenance fee and they are going to be bringing that to the city council so stay tuned to council meetings for that one.
DP: IS THAT GOING TO BE DISCUSSED AT THE NEXT COUNCIL MEETING?
BH: I believe our planner, Matilda Deas, is going to be bringing that to us in April. They are still collecting survey results about the park maintenance fee, whether it should be a flat fee — do we create something similar to Canby's street maintenance fee?
Also part of the conversation is looking into creating a park and recreation district and if we decide to how do we go about funding it. Would that be a bond or an operating levy? What would that entail?
That's a much bigger conversation I think the council is going to be tackling here. Again it's a balance — what can we afford to do and what will the voters support?
Another big topic is we will be doing a work session on our road maintenance fee. About seven or eight years ago the city council voted in a $5 road maintenance fee and a 3-cent gas tax. So, the conversation is we're not keeping up with the city's road maintenance needs at $5 and at 3 cents.
We're not able to keep up with road repairs and also costs have gone up. The cost of asphalt has gone up. The cost of labor has gone up. We're trying to figure out what our balance point is. Do we scale back on how much we are going to do each year and just accept that until we get over this hump we're in right now or is it looking at having to have conversations about increasing those fees in some regard? That's something the council will need to look at.
Over-arching right now is that Canby is in this kind of gray zone I think where there are a lot of things percolating around Canby and in Canby. We're getting a lot of business interest, a lot of home development interest. It's just a matter of seeing it come to fruition.
DP: WHEN YOU SAY "COME TO FRUITION," WHAT WOULD THAT ENTAIL?
BH: Housing, we're seeing housing going in in a couple different segments of town. There are some annexation pieces going to be coming our way again — so there will be more annexations. We're going to see ground breaking on housing down along SE 13th Avenue. Those are things in the pipeline. They are coming. It's just a matter of the builders deciding to make it happen. Strip away all the things with permitting that go on through the city and county those are things that are happening.
On a business front, there are approximately four or five businesses that are looking at moving their business to Canby. One of those businesses actually has two locations they are looking at moving to and both of them are here in Canby. They're just trying to decide which one is the better one.
DP: ARE THESE LARGE OR MAJOR COMPANIES WE'RE TALKING ABOUT HERE?
BH: They are larger companies that will be big investment into the community. They'll bring jobs, they'll bring the assessed value piece that we're looking for. The big thing is the jobs piece. I think there's also two companies that are deciding between us and Vancouver. Some of those things take time to get going and some of these projects we're discussing have been on the table for two years — waiting to see what was going to happen with the election, and now that we've seen those results people want to see how things are going to go (with the Trump Administration's) first 100 days. So, we're starting to see more activity.
I was talking with economic development from the county, they said they've just been inundated with requests for information on various properties throughout Clackamas County. So, they are seeing things pick up as well. That means jobs. That means more activity happening here in Canby. So, that's that gray area we're in. There's a lot coming up. Are those things that we play the waiting game on those things coming to fruition and then that's revenue we wait on or are there things we need to take action on right now?
Housing is also a conversation many of the city councilors still want to have in terms of the mix. The question is do we have enough affordable housing …
DP: DO YOU MEAN HOUSING THAT'S AFFORDABLE OR AFFORDABLE HOUSING?
BH: It's two questions. One, is there enough affordable housing going by the definition of affordable housing used by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and then there is a housing affordability issue. Houses built in Canby, anything new, costs $350,000, $400,000, $450,000. I look at it as when we have kids who grew up in Canby then moved away and went to college or whatever, and then later they decide they want to settle back in Canby, it's a challenge to move into Canby if you're looking to find that entry-level home. Entry level homes here are high $200,000 low $300,000 and there aren't that many available in Canby. The regional average is $352,000, I think, for the Portland metro area. For Portland itself it's like $406,000. So, there's lots of conversation about density and the state legislature is looking at rent control and all of these things that affect housing but how much of that is going to be mandated that we have to do and how much that is just access to tools that we as a council can put into place. That remains to be seen.
DP: HOW DOES TRANSPORTATION TIE INTO GROWTH IN THESE DISCUSSIONS? HIGHWAY 99E IS ONLY GOING TO GET WORSE OVER TIME. IS THERE ANY TALK ABOUT A BYPASS IN THE FUTURE OR IS THAT WHAT ARNDT ROAD IS SUPPOSED TO DO?
BH: Highway 99E is definitely a challenge point in our transportation infrastructure. Do you widen it, or what do you do? It's going to continue to be busier so when you look at, as you say, 'bypasses,' Newberg has a bypass around their downtown and now they have that freeway link through Dundee that's finally happened. I believe the Arndt Road/Berg Parkway piece, if it gets built, will pull traffic off of Highway 99E. Barlow Road, that intersection coming in to Canby, it's abysmal. It's so bad and it gets backed up to Arndt Road at times. Connecting Arndt Road also will bring traffic through our downtown, which could be a good thing for downtown. I think the biggest expense is going to be the purchase of right-of-way. That's going to have to be state and county money. Right now the state is looking at the ability to do a transportation/infrastructure plan. But the "ask" by counties and cities of the state is $1.2 billion, but we have a billion-dollar budget shortfall based on the governor's proposed budget. High on the project list is an expansion of Interstate 205, Highway 217 and the area around the Rose Quarter. And there is talk of possible toll roads, increased gas taxes, even on when you register a bicycle you would have to pay a registration fee to pay for the added bike lanes people want to have.
Right now the state is looking at all possible funding to be able to do that. That Arndt Road extension is in that mix. Right now the county seems to think it could gain a lot of traction at the state level for funding purposes. We'll see how it plays out.
DP: HOW DID THAT FINALLY GET ON THE RADAR AFTER SOMETHING LIKE 30 YEARS OF DISCUSSIONS ABOUT EXTENDING ARNDT ROAD?
BH: It's always been part of the county's transportation plan. With our growth here and looking at trying to grow jobs and economic development in the county, we've done a lot of work over the years to prepare Canby for this growth and to be able to have the ability to draw manufacturing into our community. So, no they're looking at it as they may need to give us some dollars to improve transportation in and out of their city. We have great support from state Senator (Alan) Olsen and Representative (Bill) Kennemer. We just have to wait and see how it pans out.
The other piece we're looking at are places along Haines Road and Otto Road. Moving east towards Oregon City we need another access point out of the industrial park that way.
But back to the whole Highway 99E piece, you know, I don't know if a bypass — that's a 20-year vision for sure. My initial gut reaction makes me kind of cringe at the thought of a bypass. But I also have to look 20 years down the road and think about what our transportation is going to look like at that point.
DP: WHAT IS IT ABOUT A BYPASS THAT MAKES YOU CRINGE? I COULD SEE THAT CROSS YOUR FACE.
BH: Because it will draw away from our core. That's a concern. We're making millions of dollars of investments into our downtown with The Dahlia project, the streetscapes we've done, the façade improvements that we offer money for businesses to complete. I want to see us be able to put that focus on getting more restaurants into town so that when people come they want to stay. That's why I cringe at the word bypass.
DP: SHOULD WE PUT A TOLL BOOTH ON ONE END OF CANBY?
BH: (Laughs) Well, we would then see traffic build up a lot more on Southeast 13th and on Birch and Territorial — traffic on those streets would get even worse than it is now.
The other part about the parks piece is looking at our big list of things is tourism. Oregon City is working on the Legacy Project and the Willamette Falls project. That's going to be a massive project, and we as a city have to be in front of that. If we wait to react we'll be too late, which brings up the discussion about getting a new hotel in Canby. And what does the county want to do with the fairgrounds or events center? What is their 20-year vision for that?
I think a lot of cities look at tourism as this sort of silver bullet, like 'we're just going to focus on tourism.' Yeah, well if everyone is just focused on tourism then is that really the magic fix-all. How many people are coming into Canby or Oregon and where are they going? Clackamas County measures tourism by heads on beds. For us there, well, we have a problem. We have a motel, let's say it's 30 rooms. How often are they filled? If that's the barometer for tourism, we're not going to see a lot of support for tourism. For us is it more about angling things from a day-trip standpoint. We're 20 minutes outside of Portland. We're a great place for people to come out and spend the day. Maybe visit the Dahlia fields, have a picnic and come downtown. Looking at all of those pieces, and the other tourist venues and assets that we have, how do we market that and how do we drive that.
I'm really excited about the Big White Goose holding the Junk Re-funk again this summer, and then there is the new event that (the store's owner Cheryl Frampton) put together that's going to be at the Event Center. It's those kind of things that are tourism attractions that may not necessarily be overnighters but they are a good day-trip out. We need to be looking at that and trying to capitalize on that.