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Council votes to redo Veritas vote

Officials also back local peace campaign, state law to protect property owners from suits

The Newberg City Council voted unanimously last week to reconsider its February vote to decline Veritas School's request to recoup some of the costs of installing sewer and water pipes along North College Street to neighboring properties.

The motion to reconsider the vote came from Councilor Patrick Johnson, who explained at the March 6 meeting that he initially voted against the school's request for an advance financing agreement because the school hadn't tried to engage with the affected neighbors.

Given that the school invited those neighbors to a public meeting since then and none attended, he said his concerns have now been dispelled.

"I feel like they've done their due diligence and at least put in the leg work to notify people that if they annex (or connect) with that pipe, they're going to have to pay," Johnson said.

Under a city staff plan that some neighbors thought went too far and school officials thought didn't go far enough, Veritas, which plans to build a new facility along the lines, could recover up to $51,539 from six properties along the lines constructed in 2015 at a cost of about $282,019.

However, city staff assured that the affected property owners would only have to pay those costs when they either connect to those lines or the property is developed and annexed into the city during the 10-year agreement and possible eight-year extension.

The plan, which the council voted down 4-2 on Feb.21, will come back — with no changes to the concern and confusion of some council members, including Mayor Bob Andrews and President Stephen McKinney — for another vote April 17.

"If the same thing is coming back to us that came to us the first time, I have some concerns," Andrews said. "If we see an agreement coming to us that has some modifications to it, then it could be of interest."

Peace campaign support

The council also voted unanimously to approve a proclamation of the city's support for the "I'm Glad You're My Neighbor" campaign.

The peace-focused campaign has been organized by several local groups, including the Newberg Rotary clubs, the George Fox University Center for Peace & Justice, the Newberg Peace Coalition, Newberg Friends Church, Peace Village Newberg and North Valley Friends Church.

The campaign kicked off with a march of about 100 people along Highway 99W on Jan. 22 and includes efforts to plant dozens of peace poles around the city as part of a regional effort.

Organizers hope the campaign will spark a broad effort to build community, encourage unity, equality and civility, and affirm the value of all people regardless of their racial, social or economic status.

Recreational immunity

In addition, the council also approved a resolution in support of state legislation to restore "recreational immunity."

While this resolution was passed as a consent item with no discussion, the staff memorandum with the packet details a 1995 state law called the Public Use of Lands Act that encouraged landowners to make their property available to the public for recreational activities.

This was broadly interpreted as making property owners and their employees and volunteers immune from tort liability until an Oregon Supreme Court ruling narrowed that protection to just property owners.

The city memorandum states that this ruling undermines that protection for the city because the city is still liable for any negligence or injuries caused by its staff, and the ruling will likely increase the cost of insurance premiums for the city and all public employers.

The resolution passed by the City Council indicates its support for legislation that would restore the law to the previous interpretation.