West Linn is close to taking a significant step in the planning process for waterfront redevelopment, as project consultant John Morgan presented "West Linn's Waterfront Public Engagement Plan" at a March 13 meeting.
But "close" is the operative word here, as the City Council opted to wait a few weeks before formally adopting the plan. The council wanted a chance to make revisions to the proposed plan, and to wait until all five councilors were present before voting.
City Council President Brenda Perry and City Councilor Bob Martin were away at a conference during the meeting.
Formerly known as the "Arch Bridge project" and now rebranded as "West Linn's Waterfront," planning for redevelopment along the riverfront is one of the City's Council's top goals in 2017. The engagement plan is of particular importance to the council, which all but scrapped the previously approved 2014 concept plan for the area in large part due to what was perceived to be a lack of sufficient public involvement.
Thus, the shorthanded council was uncomfortable with moving forward at the March 13 meeting.
"Some of us have already identified some (new) things we'd like to see incorporated (in the engagement plan)," Mayor Russ Axelrod said. "We want to have a full council when we discuss the overall plan."
The proposed plan calls for a multi-layered outreach effort including electronic and social media engagement, presentations to various city groups, larger community engagement events like open houses, media relations and — perhaps most importantly — an advisory task force featuring a wide array of members.
The goal is to reach a broader group of residents this time around, and to "engage where they are" by attending a variety of meetings held by various interest groups around the city.
"The engagement plan before you is not laid out with a whole lot of specifics as far as 'what' and 'when,' and that is on purpose because we want to be nimble," Morgan said. "We're ready to go to work on this. Once the task force gets together, then things will take off in earnest as far as engagement."
Yet the council remained unsure of whether there should be a task force at all.
"I thought of some of the pitfalls I've seen West Linn fall into with advisory boards, task forces and who gets assigned to them," Axelrod said. "The truth of the matter is that at times, they have not been fair and (members) have been selected for political reasons."
Resident Peggy Kirkendall — a vocal opponent of the 2014 plan — shared a set of written ideas for engagement with the council.
"It's easy to get stuck in the same model we do over and over, but we might want to change the model," Kirkendall said. "I think we might be able to do something much more extensive and more fun."
The council promised to evaluate Kirkendall's proposal and will revisit the issue at its April 10 meeting.
By Patrick Malee
Assistant Editor, West Linn Tidings
Pamplin Media Group
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