Attorney: Development agreement would be unprecedented in WL
There was no mention of Tannler Drive or developer Jeff Parker during a West Linn City Council work session Dec. 4, but they were the elephants in the room as the council received a briefing from City Attorney Tim Ramis on the process behind "development agreements."
The conversation was a precede to a public hearing scheduled for Dec. 11 to debate the merits of the latest proposal from Parker and Tannler Properties, LLC., which owns an 11-acre space near Blankenship Road and Tannler Drive.
Two years after the council denied an application for mixed-use development on that property, Parker and his colleagues opted for a different approach by submitting an application Sept. 22 for a "statutory development agreement" with West Linn.
That agreement lays out a series of steps and conditions to be followed by both the City and the developer during the development review process.
In exchange for the City's promise to review "in good faith" a series of upcoming applications — including those for zoning changes and the proposed development itself — Parker and Tannler Properties stated in the proposed agreement that they would pay to realign Tannler Drive through the property and install a traffic signal at that new intersection if a Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA) proved the need for one.
The realignment and other measures described in the development agreement would only take place if the City Council were to approve the final development applications from Tannler Properties.
Yet as Ramis noted in his presentation Monday, this process is entirely foreign not only to this particular City Council but also West Linn as whole.
"We have not had one of these before, at least in my memory," Ramis said.
He added, however, that such agreements are hardly unusual at a broader state level.
"Development agreements have been with us for some time, and they're most typically seen in the urban renewal context," Ramis said.
"(You'll see) agreements related to the development of land where the government has responsibilities and the developer has responsibilities."
He added that port districts have also been frequent users of development agreements, as well as other cities and counties.
"Cities and counties have been empowered by the Legislature to also have development agreements, even when it doesn't involve the sale of land or use of public property (typically seen in urban renewal projects)," Ramis said.
He added that development agreements are legally binding.
"There are obligations for both the developer and the local government, and remedies if anyone fails to perform," Ramis said. "It's a serious undertaking, and binding — different from a letter of intent, which is nonbinding."
Ramis said there are several incentives for local governments to enter such agreements. In some cases, they allow for cities to negotiate infrastructure improvements to be performed by a developer that would otherwise be difficult, if not impossible, to impose by conditions of approval as part of the land use process.
He added that development agreements can also make approval criteria clear before the land use process starts and clear up ambiguous laws that might prompt future appeals in the absence of such an agreement.
Finally, he said that development agreements can put limitations on land use that would otherwise be unavailable to a city.
Still, City Council President Brenda Perry questioned whether the potential benefits were worth the risk.
"Why would you enter a contract like this?" Perry said. "It has to be very complex if you're looking at everything you need to accomplish, cover, agree with. ... There's so much risk if you miss something, and it's a binding contract."
"You need to be careful and need to find there's good reason to do it," Ramis said, "because it's a binding agreement and needs to be taken seriously."
Following Ramis' presentation, the council debated how to approach the Dec. 11 hearing on the Tannler Properties proposal.
Tannler Properties requested that the hearing be continued to a later date in 2018 to allow for more community outreach, and in turn the council decided to simply open the hearing Dec. 11 and announce that it would continue at a later date. Thus, public testimony will not be accepted at that meeting.