City Hall Update: Council wants to develop more brownfields
To encourage redevelopment of brownfields in Portland, the City Council on Wednesday directed the creation of a property tax incentive for owners who clean them up and return them to useful purposes.
The incentives will be a reduced property tax rate proposed by the Bureau of Environmental Services, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability and Prosper Portland (formerly the Portland Development Commission), to be approved by the council within a year.
According to the city, there are over 900 acres of brownfields throughout Portland, including former industrial sites, gas stations and dry cleaners. They are three times as likely to be found in underserved communities, and nearly half are close to environmentally sensitive areas like wetlands and streams.
Managers can approve more contracts
The City Council voted Thursday to increase the value of contracts that can be authorized by managers without formal council approval.
The value of expert services contracts was increased from $100,000 to $500,000. The value of public improvement contracts was increased from $500,000 to $1 million. The funds must come from existing budgets approved by the council. The change covers the vast majority of contracts that have come before the council in the past.
The change was made to increase the speed of contract approval. City staff testified that seeking council approval adds two months to the contracting process. All four council members approved the change except Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who was absent. Commissioner Nick Fish noted there is no easy way for the public to find all city contracts at this time.
Biketown expands, caters to more abilities
On Friday, the Portland Bureau of Transportation announced its Biketown bike rental program is now offering bikes for people with different degrees of abilities.
Adaptive Biketown now has a mix of tandem, hand-cycles and three-wheeled bicycles for rent by the hour with the goal of increasing access to cycling. It is the first city-sponsored program of its kind in the country.
The announcement was made at a Friday morning news conference that included transportation Commissioner Dan Saltzman, members of the disability community, and representatives of two of the program's sponsors, Nike and Different Spokes.