Woodburn mayor Kathy Figley highlighted Woodburn's upcoming industrial and residential development, an improving economy and the city's commitment to inclusivity in her 2017 State of the City address, which was delivered in the City Council chambers on June 2.
The speech was delivered to about 50 attendees of the Woodburn Area Chamber of Commerce's weekly Greeters networking event, which takes place each Friday morning.
The speech focused on the fact that the city is, for the first time since the 2008 recession, seeing growth, both in terms of city staffing and programming and in terms of development.
"We've been through a serious economic downturn that we made it through because of, really, a series of excellent financial managers in our finance area and our management level," Figley said.
Figley said the increased financial stability that has come from an improving economy is making possible renovations and improvements to city buildings. "We're taking care of a lot of deferred areas," Figley said. One example Figley gave was that some carpet in City Hall, originally installed in 1976, was recently replaced.
Another example Figley gave was the Woodburn Historical Museum, which had a grand reopening on June 3. "We … refurbished the exhibits and we're going to be fixing the roof, making it seismically stable, and eventually rehabbing the Bungalow Theater area so it's available for theater, lecture and performance purposes," Figley said.
Much of the speech focused on the upcoming development that's expected to take place in Woodburn over the next few years.
Figley said the city is hiring a city planner because of that upcoming growth. "I think most of you have read about over a thousand housing units are being slated to come down the pike in the next two or three years. That's significant," she said. "We have 100 acres of industrial land that's currently in the UGB (Urban Growth Boundary) outside the city limits that's now in the process of being annexed. There are serious inquiries happening and the owner of the land is getting ready to develop it for somebody."
She acknowledged that there will be challenges tied to the residential and industrial development, including having new employers in the city and the stress that residential growth could have on the school system. Figley listed some of the things the city is doing to prepare for that growth.
"What we're trying to do to the best of our ability is plan for what happens when 11, 12 hundred units (are added), probably 4 or 5 thousand community residents," she said.
Figley said one way the city is preparing is by revisiting the city's plans for a community center. The city is currently updating a feasibility study that examines the possibility of expanding the Woodburn Aquatic Center into a more comprehensive community center.
"We think it's more critical as more community members join us that we have a place where we can recreate," Figley said. "Offering a place to do that is huge."
Figley said the city is also updating transportation, water, wastewater and park master plans in light of the upcoming residential development. "It's exciting, but we want to make sure that as things develop the services are there and that we are dealing with as few unintended consequences as possible," Figley said.
The speech also highlighted urban renewal, which Figley said is picking up after a period of stagnation. "Our urban renewal has been disappointing, but it's been disappointing for two huge reasons," Figley said. "It was intended to take advantage of steadily growing property tax space, which didn't happen for several years, from about 2008 to 2012. And it was also dependent on the property south of Walmart developing. And unfortunately, the property south of Walmart did, but the commercial one we expected to see did not."
Figley said the city's "slow and steady" progress with urban renewal has made it possible for the city to build public restrooms downtown this year, which Figley said was an important step in improving downtown livability. In addition, she said that the city will "be able to finally take some steps on First Street," referring to long-deferred plans to improving that street.
Figley then highlighted the inclusive city resolution recently passed by the Woodburn City Council. She said that the level of discourse she's witnessed in nearby cities and on the national level have made it important to remind Woodburn residents to respect their neighbors and friends.
"It is important to respect each other, include each other and, to every extent possible, love one another," Figley said. "Our neighbors are loved, valued and respected. All of them. That's important."
Lastly, Figley reminded residents that no matter how chaotic the state or federal government may appear, it's encouraging to focus on local government. "Fortunately most of the services people use — the water, the tap, the flush, the street, the library, the park — those are local government, as we're going to do the best we can, as well as we can, to make those the best they can be," Figley said.
Figley then answered some questions from the audience. One resident asked about rising housing costs and how the upcoming residential development will affect that. In her response, Figley said the city is working with the Farmworker Housing Development Corporation to add more affordable housing to the city. "It's a little different from their current concept. It's going to be workforce housing, not just farmworker housing," Figley said. "We're at the point where a teacher would qualify for workforce housing."
After Figley answered questions, City Administrator Scott Derickson gave a brief speech addressing how the city is preparing for the influx of development.
"As the manager I'm worried about our ability to stay on top of it all," Derickson said. "If you haven't seen me for two months, I've been here trying to grapple with all of that and support the staff in managing this in a way that is going to be done correctly and efficiently and benefit the community and investors."
Derickson also answered some questions from the audience. One resident asked about the impact the development will have on police and fire service.
"I think there will be an impact to the demand and level of services," Derickson said. However, he said that the development will expand the city's tax base, which will increase the city's resources for funding those services.
"Industrial development offsets the impact of residential development," Derickson said. "Woodburn could not afford the expansion of residential development without an offset in industrial investment." Derickson explained that industrial properties don't consume high levels of service from the city, but through taxes and fees contribute to the general fund. Derickson said that offsets the increase in residential properties, which consume more of the city's resources.
"That's why you're seeing the residential properties proposals at the same time you're seeing this very significant industrial site. And it's been part of the city's strategy," Derickson said.