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Urban renewal strategic task force to meet Sept. 25

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - The interchange at Wilsonville Road and Interstate 5 is one of the most visible uses of urban renewal funding in the city. A newly appointed urban renewal strategic task force will hold its first meeting Wednesday, Sept. 25, as Wilsonville starts the in-depth examination of the public funding process many have been waiting for.

The city has hired consulting firm ECONorthwest to help guide the development of an urban renewal strategic plan for Wilsonville. The strategic task force is at the core of this process, and its findings will guide the development of the plan. The resulting document is intended to guide urban renewal activities in the city for the next 20 years.

The task force consists of 17 members, a number of whom also served on a city’s economic development task force that crafted a new urban renewal district the city is calling a tax increment financing zone.

“A good number of them were on the economic development task force,” Wilsonville Urban Renewal Director Kristin Retherford told councilors at a Sept. 16 work session. “There are a lot with real estate experience; it’s a pretty good representation.”

The strategic planning process will examine existing urban renewal plans and possible future urban renewal areas. Task force meetings are open to the public from 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 25, 6 to 7 p.m. Oct. 17 and 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 14. All task force meetings will be held in Willamette River conference rooms 1 and 2 at Wilsonville City Hall, 29799 Town Center Loop East.

Public input will be taken at an open house scheduled 7 to 9 p.m. Oct. 17, following the task force meeting.

The purpose of urban renewal is to stimulate economic development through private investment in a specific area of the community. Tax increment financing is used in blighted areas where private development has stagnated or is not feasible. Public funds are then used to develop infrastructure, including land assembly, streets, utility lines lighting, public open spaces and parks.

This helps increase property values and bring in more property tax revenue within the district. That revenue is then used to pay off bonds sold to finance the revitalization effort in the first place.

There are two urban renewal districts in Wilsonville. The east side district was created in the early 1990s and has helped fund massive improvements to the Wilsonville Road-Interstate 5 interchange, street improvements stretching from the west side city limits to Town Center Loop and much more. Assessed property value has increased by more than $300 million since the district was established.

Current urban renewal projects are part of the city’s west side plan, which is being used to improve the transportation grid in Wilsonville. There are new street connections, bike and pedestrian connections, utilities, sidewalks, curbs, storm sewers and related infrastructure.

One of the biggest projects in this district is the Boeckman Road extension west to Tooze Road. The city has already received more than $6 million in state and federal grant funds for this work.

All of this will be up for debate by the strategic task force, which will examine completion of existing projects, maximum indebtedness limits, potential new urban renewal areas and the possibility of closing portions of, or even entire, districts.

The task force also will discuss how to best utilize the city’s new TIF zone ordinance, which identifies five specific commercial and industrial sites in Wilsonville and applies property tax incentives for companies willing to invest in refurbishing the properties and create above-average wage jobs.

Finally, the task force will examine the possibility of using urban renewal funding to help develop the Coffee Creek and Basalt Creek industrial areas at the north end of the city.

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