Support a postive future for local parks
Earlier this month, a settlement was reached ending a nearly two-year legal dispute over the city of Happy Valley's status within the North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District (NCPRD).
By way of background, NCPRD was formed to create economies of scale in order to provide parks and recreation services to smaller communities in the county that otherwise would not be able to afford them. As Happy Valley grew, it desired to exit the NCPRD and provide those services directly to its citizens as evidenced by a 2017 vote of its City Council to formally withdraw from the parks district.
While the county and the city ultimately agreed on the goal — that Happy Valley should be allowed to leave NCPRD — the devil was in the details. How much of the development fees that had been collected from Happy Valley residents would be returned to the city?
How could the county protect the interests of other communities in NCPRD as a significant portion of the NCPRD tax base was exiting the district? These and other complex matters resulted in a protracted and expensive legal conflict that delayed the city's plans to move forward and hindered NCPRD's ability to effectively budget, provide services and plan for the future development of the district.
Fortunately, as good Oregonians do, city and county leaders came together and hammered out a compromise that was both fair to the city and protected the financial integrity of the NCPRD — a public entity that has provided incalculable value to communities throughout the county.
We were proud and honored to be able to work together to help facilitate this agreement. Like most good agreements, no one got everything they wanted, but everyone got what they needed.
For NCPRD, the agreement ensures that NCPRD does not lose potential tax revenue if property currently within NCPRD is annexed. For Happy Valley, the city will exit the district and receive millions of dollars that had been originally collected by the city and transferred to NCPRD for use in their community. Perhaps most important, the agreement removes the cost and distraction of a continuing legal dispute and provides badly-needed certainty for both parties.
To make this landmark agreement official, state legislation will be necessary, and accordingly both Happy Valley and Clackamas County have agreed to jointly develop and support enabling legislation in the upcoming short session in 2020.
As the clouds of uncertainty regarding this matter are parting, NCPRD can focus its attention on developing programs and services for traditionally underserved areas by completing exciting new projects such as Milwaukie Bay Park and planning for future use of the Concord, Wichita and Clackamas elementary school sites. Likewise, the city of Happy Valley can turn its attention toward implementing its new Parks and Recreation Master Plan that will include the development of a new community park and a future community center.
Early next year, NCPRD and the city of Happy Valley will be reaching out to their respective constituents to solicit views and input to help them guide the future of parks and recreation services in their jurisdictions. I invite all of you to participate in these processes and to voice your support for the legislative remedy that will be necessary to make this a reality.
State Rep. Janelle Bynum represents Happy Valley, and State Rep. Mark Meek represents Oak Grove/Jennings Lodge in the Oregon Legislature.
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