Landowner withdraws challenge to new park and rec district SDCs
BY SETH GORDON
Newberg Graphic reporter
After expressing displeasure in public testimony during the Chehalem Park and Recreation District's process to increase its system development charges (SDCs), a local landowner challenged the fees in Yamhill County Circuit Court.
As a result of the testimony of Springbrook Properties, which is planning to sell a large parcel of the land owned by the Austin family to be developed into housing and give the proceeds to its charity foundation, and others, the board backed off from approving the recommended increase from $2,017 to $13,459 for a single family house.
The board eventually voted 3-1 on June 28 to adopt a fee of $6,866, but Springbrook Properties submitted a petition for a writ of review Aug. 18.
In addition to asking for the court to invalidate the park district's decision upon review and return the fee to $2,017, the legal action included a request for the court to grant a stay and prevent CPRD from implementing the new fee.
Yamhill County Circuit Court Judge Ronald Stone did issue an order for a writ of review Aug. 23, which required CPRD to submit a certified copy of its records pertaining to the SDC resolution to the court and the plaintiff by Sept. 22.
The order, however was silent on the request for a stay, in effect denying it.
After the park district complied with the order for documentation, Austin Industries President Brett Baker informed this newspaper in October that Springbrook Properties intended to withdraw the petition. Attorneys from Portland law firm Stoel Reeves filled for a dismissal, which was signed by Stone Nov. 6.
"The writ of review was really our only process that was available to us to get some information from the district and also let them know that we weren't pleased," Baker said. "We're all for an appropriate SDC. It's not about the money, it's about the process that we were disappointed in."
During public testimony, and later in the petition for review as well, Baker and others challenged that CPRD had not met satisfied a state statute by preparing capital improvement plan or master plan in advance of the resolution, pointing to a one-page wish list of projects that all together was roughly estimated to total $136 million.
The district in fact did have a master plan in place and record of the planning and discussion for the items on the list, but did not provide that information with materials distributed for the resolution to raise SDCs. The district did submit three 3-inch binders of documentation in response the court order, although much of it was available to the public on its website, which provides word-searchable copies of the minutes for every board meeting.
In addition, the board approved the $6,866 fee based on the current level of service it provides to taxpayers, not the $13,459 that was based, in part, on the project list.
Baker, however, was still critical of the lack of outreach by the district to include the community in the SDC process and said that essentially, the legal action fulfilled its purpose.
"We kind of got out of it what we wanted, which was some more information and, candidly, we wanted the district to know that we were serious that we did not think they went through a good process," Baker said.
Baker added that he and Springbrook Properties are more than willing to help the district improve the process in the future, a sentiment that was echoed by CPRD Superintendent Don Clements after the dismissal was approved.
"Our values are: cooperating and responsiveness," Clements said. "We intend to revisit the SDCs by 2022 if not before. Input is always welcomed. We will continue to work with the community and abide by the procedures for SDCs."