Busy year continues for Economic Development Committee
Last summer, The Tidings visited with each of the city's advisory board chairs to learn more about the behind-the-scenes work that helps define the future of West Linn.
A year later, we're rebooting that series to learn what has changed — and what hasn't —- at the advisory board level since 2016. We continue with the Economic Development Committee.
To serve on West Linn's Economic Development Committee (EDC) is to be constantly pulled in different directions.
The committee, after all, is tasked with dealing with things as minute and detail-oriented as Community Development Code changes while also looking at wide-ranging issues like waterfront redevelopment and the more existential question of what kind of businesses should be in West Linn.
The EDC has nonetheless touched on all of that and more so far in 2017, according to acting chair Gail Holmes.
"(The year) really started off with wanting to do surveys on citizens — what types of businesses they wanted to see in West Linn. And a survey with businesses to see what is lacking and how they could be helped by the City," Holmes said. "The (City) Council asked us to look at recruiting businesses into West Linn, and not getting the same businesses — create more diversity in shopping and services."
Before that recruiting can begin, however, the EDC must collaborate with local property owners.
See more"Some of the rents are really high, even higher than in downtown Portland," Holmes said. "That makes it difficult for us to get businesses in those spaces."
As for West Linn's waterfront areas, Holmes said she has attended a number of open houses related to the planning project, and that the EDC is working to support a "bottom-up" approach in the wake of a previous planning project that left some in the community feeling left out.
"(Doing it) top-down and then trying to sell it to people isn't the right way," Holmes said. "I think, instead of reacting, people are willing to look and really think about what the vision might be."
Meanwhile, the EDC brought its suggestions on potential code changes to the City Council at a July meeting between the two bodies.
"Absolutely, we've got some serious problems," Holmes said. She cited several examples of when city codes have impeded business development, including a $1,000 fee charged to a Willamette area storefront that was looking to paint a different color on the front of the building, as well as provisions that originally prohibited an incoming cider house to brew on-site.
"McMenamins is a few blocks away, and they brew," Holmes said. "So that's also frustrating because we need to have equity, and that's not equity."
Finally, Holmes said the EDC continues to monitor the situation at the old Haggen store in the Willamette area.
"Apparently that's still in (bankruptcy) courts," Holmes said. "It's something we talk about at almost every meeting. There's nothing we can do, but hopefully we can solve it sooner or later. It's hard on Willamette to not have a grocery store."
The EDC meetings once a month at City Hall, and allows public comments at the end of each meeting.