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Milwaukie: Marijuana out, Riverfront Park project in

Milwaukie City Council, by 4-0 votes, passed an emergency ban against marijuana dispensaries this week and agreed on the previously contentious terms of leasing Clackamas County’s land for the Riverfront Park project.

“When this phase is completed, we will have taken another leap in the transformation of our riverfront, bringing us that much closer to creating a destination on the Willamette River the whole region will enjoy,” Mayor Jeremy Ferguson said.

Clackamas County commissioners Thursday unanimously agreed to the $63,200 easement in three annual payments, paving the way for construction of a new McLoughlin Boulevard boat ramp, restroom and parking facilities. The new boat ramp and boarding float will be constructed south of the present-day ramp, which will be closed this summer during construction.

“This agreement provides a balance between the city’s plans to improve access, amenities and recreational opportunities along their riverfront and the district’s responsibility to provide safe, reliable and cost-effective services to ratepayers and the community,” said Clackamas County Commissioner Paul Savas.

After negotiations with Savas, Ferguson this week celebrated that the county withdrew its objection letter to the city rebuilding the park. Additional work includes the new vehicle access point to the park, a riverside trail along the bank of the Willamette River, re-grading the site and replanting many riparian areas.

Site preparation begins in May so that heavy construction can start in June. The $2.2 million project to be completed by the end of December includes funds from two grants the city secured last summer – a $1.2 million grant from the Oregon Marine Board and $220,000 from the Oregon Parks and Recreation District for $220,000.

Milwaukie resident Gary Klein, whose family donated property to make the project possible, was “a little disappointed” in the county getting more than $60,000 when the city’s assessor had argued that the site with no commercial value would be worth closer to $10,000. Klein also said Milwaukie’s project will benefit access for sewer-plant vehicles and residents countywide getting improved regional park and boat-ramp facilities.

“They have no true access to the property, and we’re going to pay (for that), and now we’re paying them to pay for it,” Klein said.

Ferguson and city staff had done “everything” possible to keep the price down as low as possible. Milwaukie had to come to a resolution quickly so that the cost of the project wouldn’t go up due to construction delays.

“It’s unfortunate that it’s taken this long, but I’m happy that we’re finally getting to hopefully a resolution,” Ferguson said.

City Councilor Mark Gamba was concerned that the agreement didn’t address who would be responsible for paying for a hit-and-run. Only if the bridge is damaged by a district truck would the county pay to fix it.

“It’s well within the realm of possibility that the bridge could be damaged by persons unknown,” Gamba said before agreeing that the contingency was one that the city would be willing to risk.

City Manager Bill Monahan complimented the county’s record keeping for its Water Environment Service trucks going through the area and said that record would be a good place to start any investigation into a hit-and-run.

Marijuana ban

Ferguson noted that the marijuana ban would be temporary through Dec. 31 as city officials watch for new regulations coming down from the Oregon Legislature.

Few spots in Milwaukie could host a dispensary due to current rules limiting such facilities near schools or daycares. “Waiting for the dust to settle,” in the words of Councilor Gamba, would save the city from having to go through a more expensive regulation process.

In time for the Oregon Health Authority beginning to accept applications in March, the city ordinance approved Feb. 25 states that operation of a medical marijuana facility has the potential to endanger the health, safety and welfare of citizens without adequate local regulation. A local family spoke to City Council arguing for the medical and economic benefits of marijuana, but city officials wanted some time to gauge the support of the wider community.

“We have to find a balance for what all those people want,” said Councilor Dave Hedges, who has a sick family friend to help him understand the potential benefits of medical marijuana.

City officials had surprised some members of the community by announcing on Friday the special session scheduled for the following Tuesday. (The agenda was revised twice, the second time about three hours before the meeting’s scheduled time of 4 p.m.) But the four-day notice was well within state law allowing special meetings to be scheduled with 24-hours notice. Less than 24-hour notice is allowed in an “actual emergency.” Councilor Scott Churchill was among those citizens couldn’t get away from work to attend due to the daytime meeting’s short notice.

Ferguson noted that the marijuana regulations will sunset Dec. 31, so citizens who missed the meeting will get a chance to comment if the council is considering making any regulations part of permanent city code.