In denying the Chehalem Park and Recreation District's request to waive system development charges (SDCs) for its $20 million pool project, the Newberg City Council suggested that more open communication earlier in the process might have led to a different outcome.
In hopes of avoiding that pitfall in the future, City Manager Joe Hannan extended an olive branch to the CPRD board of directors at their Jan. 26 meeting.
The two government agencies have been at odds with one another over issues in the past, sometimes quite bitterly, but that was before Hannan's time, so he offered up a litany of ways they might work together moving forward.
"We do get it that what you're doing is really important and the community wants," Hannan told the board. "What we're trying to do with streets is really important. Nobody has enough money. There are opportunities for partnership, though."
Hannan began by saying that trails were a priority for both entities and they should make sure all projects are included in each other's master plans. He added that the city is willing to help CPRD draft grant proposals and dedicate staff time as part of potential fund-matching agreements.
The city manager also said he sees a role for CPRD in the master planning of the city's urban renewal district around the waterfront and the former WestRock mill site and expressed optimism that a deal to sell that property could be completed in the near future. Hannan specifically invited CPRD to be a part of the planning committee for that project, which could connect them to a number of projects that would benefit the district.
For instance, if an industrial tenant could be found that could provide a solution to CPRD's gripes that it has been the only user, and therefore only rate payer, for the city's re-use water system, that would represent a ready-made user that would lower the rate it pays at the golf course.
Hannan also addressed several questions about the re-use water issue and said the city has been making efforts to improve the situation.
In the same vein, Hannan said the city is working with various state agencies, most important the Department of Environmental Quality, to have the town's former landfill decommissioned adjacent to Roger's Landing. That would help remove some of the obstacles, mainly at the county level, that have prevented CPRD from installing trails or even constructing a park there.
"That just happened because these people were asked strongly by the governor to go down here and talk to us," Hannan said. "You've offered to be at the table for those types of things to happen."
Hannan also discussed future projects at the Chehalem Cultural Center, including a commercial kitchen that would allow it to host conventions, and said many of CPRD's events might qualify to receive tourism funds generated by the city's lodging tax.
He also suggested both the board and the council could prevent future problems and build a better relationship by meeting face to face, both officially and in a more informal or social setting.
"I think there are some opportunities for you to talk about what you want and to ask the city to be a partner," he said. "I can't fix the past, but I can say there is a willingness from staff and with the City Council to figure out how we can do some stuff in the future."
All five board members said they appreciated how Hannan reached out in the spirit of cooperation, but also expressed some general skepticism because they have heard similar overtures from some of his predecessors.
"This park district over my tenure here has frequently been treated as the red-haired stepchild of local government and when there has been a call for cooperation, we're the ones who are expected to do the cooperating," board member Don Loving said. "So to get the chance to talk about some of these things on equal footing up front, I greatly appreciate that because there have been issues in the past."
That skepticism resurfaced later in the meeting when CPRD Superintendent Don Clements presented paperwork for the city's agreement to defer $361,000 in SDCs to be approved. He noted that the city included a lien on the property in the agreement (though that provision did not come from the council) which several members took offense to as a lack of trust or ridiculed considering the size of the debt versus the $20 million price tag.
In the end it did not prevent the proposal from passing, but no votes from Loving and Mike Ragsdale made it a narrow 3-2 margin.