Ballots must be dropped off after Halloween

       It’s not too late to turn in your ballots for Tuesday’s special election.

Residents in Tigard and Sherwood have until Nov. 5 to decide the fate of two ballot measures. One, an amended version of a plan Sherwood voters rejected two years ago, and the other a charter amendment, which city officials say is necessary to revitalize Tigard’s downtown core. Here’s what you need to know, before Tuesday’s election deadline.

Sherwood annexation

For the second time in three years, Sherwood residents will decide whether or not to annex a portion of the Brookman Concept Plan into the city limits.

The 97.5 acres of property is north of Brookman Road, east of Highway 99W and west of Ladd Hill Road. Plans are to zone the land for medium- and high-density residential uses.

Initiated by property owners in the Brookman Road area, the current measure is smaller than one voters rejected in November 2011, which asked if residents wanted to annex the entire 258 acres of the Brookman Concept Plan. That proposal included not only annexing land for residential use but also for commercial office, light industrial and institutional public space as well.

The Oregon Secretary of State’s website shows support for the newest measure coming from the Sherwood Committee for Responsible Growth, which lists Lori L. Piercy of Rainier as treasurer. The committee also lists paying $9,926.31 to Quinn Thomas Public Affairs, which represented Walmart when it announced plans to locate in Sherwood, for help in getting the measure passed.

Tigard charter amendment

In Tigard, voters are being asked to weigh in on plans for the downtown area after a discrepancy was discovered between the city’s charter and state tax law.

For many at the city, the issue is a simple housekeeping effort, but “Roads Not Rails” a polical group which opposes bringing a high capacity transit line into Tigard, has come out against the measure, saying that it takes away voter choice.

“Tigard has placed a misleading Urban Renewal Measure on your current November ballot that takes away your opportunity to vote,” read a flyer that was sent out to voters this week.

But Tigard city officials say the measure isn’t controversial. It’s a simple adjustment that would allow the city to go out for bonds to revitalize downtown Tigard.

“It’s a no-brainer,” said Tigard Mayor John L. Cook. “We need to change it because state laws have changed since (the 1980s.)”

At issue is a 30-year-old provision in the city’s charter, which said that Tigard voters had the final say on any changes to urban renewal plans if those changes would or could involve the levying of a tax on properties outside of the urban renewal area.

The problem, city officials say, is that those rules conflict with state guidelines, which were drastically changed after the passage of Measures 5 and 50 in the 1990s, and is a sticking point if the city wants to go out for bonds.

The city’s only Urban Renewal Area is in downtown Tigard, and was approved by voters in 2006.

Under the charter, city officials say, the city would not be able to seek bonds to help pay for urban renewal, since those bonds could impact properties outside the downtown core.

“We didn’t fix this before because when the economy tanked the property tax values never went up, and money never came in and projects didn’t start,” Cook said. “Now in 2013 we have projects that we want to move forward with, but when we go to the bonding company, they said they don’t like our wording, because we never cleaned (the charter) up.”

Because of this, Cook said, the city isn’t able to go out for bonds in order to pay for larger projects in the downtown area, such as purchasing buildings for redevelopment, or working with developers to add housing to the downtown.

To fix the problem, the city is asking voters to amend the charter to read that urban renewal projects will go before voters when the plan actually calls for imposing additional property taxes outside the downtown area, rather than just the possibility of those taxes impacting residents.

It’s a small change, but city officials say it is what is required to bring the charter into compliance with Measures 5 and 50 and allow the urban renewal plan to be run the way voters intended.

Passing the measure will allow the city to add projects to the urban renewal plan and allow the city to go out for bonds and other private financing to help pay for larger projects, said Tigard community development director Kenny Asher.

“We want to implement what the plan says it can do,” Asher told The Times in August. “We don’t want to change any of the powers of the voters. This was the plan approved by voters in 2006.”

Roads Not Rails has set up a Facebook group dedicated to stopping the measure, and sent out mailers to residents saying that the charter change would take away the public’s ability to vote.

Voters will still have the final say if new property taxes are needed to pay for projects, and voter approval is needed to authorize any new urban renewal plan.

The measure has no connection to a proposed high capacity transit line from coming to Tigard, which “Roads Not Rails” formed to oppose.

Should voters reject the charter amendment, it would effectively halt revitalization efforts in the downtown, Cook said.

The city would be forced to stick to smaller projects such as road improvements and façade work on downtown businesses.

“That’s really about all we could do,” Cook said. “Anything that costs more than about $300,000 a year, the city wouldn’t be able to do.”

Ballots will need to be mailed by today (Thursday) in order to be processed in time for the election.

After Halloween, ballots can be dropped off at Sherwood City Hall, 22560 S.W. Pine St., and at Tigard City Hall, 13125 S.W. Hall Blvd.

The polls close at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 5.

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